Food waste and scraps sent to a landfill are trapped under layers of waste without any source of light or oxygen.
By Lucie Nurdin
Because food waste cannot decompose properly in a landfill, methane is produced, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In 2022, the city of Pasadena allowed residents to drop their food waste into green bins. The organic matter is then transported into a facility where it is incinerated. This program segregates the food from the landfill but does not transform waste into a useful product. This article is all about turning waste into a useful and valuable product via composting organic matter.
Composting is a natural process that allows organic matter to be transformed into fertilizers to enrich soil and plants. Many resources are available online on how to compost, what to compost, and where to compost (see smartgardening.org for local information). Below is some useful information relevant to Pasadena and neighboring cities.
What To Compost
- Green waste (think food scraps): vegetables, eggshells, nuts, coffee grounds, tea leaves, hair, and fur.
- Brown waste (think yard waste): leaves, branches, plants, cardboard, and paper.
What Not To Compost
- Meat, bone, seafood, dairy, oil, pet waste, and litter. Instead, bury these in your yard and let nature do the rest.
How and Where To Compost
1- If You Have Your Own Yard Space
Create an open space in your garden that will be dedicated to receiving your green and brown waste. Mix an equal amount of green and brown materials.
You can also use a compost bin, which is a great option for a small balcony or patio. The City of Pasadena sells compost bins for $56, but you also can find bins second-hand or online. Check out the City of Pasadena website for more information on pick-up locations and services.
This is a great option for indoor composting in small apartment settings and is very low maintenance. As a bonus, the kids will love to participate. You will need to buy the box and the worms, but then you are all set.
3- Share Compost: Makesoil.org and Sharewaste.com
These two online platforms connect neighbors who compost with neighbors who can contribute scraps. If you are composting currently and can accept donations, please consider registering yourself as a composting site. If you cannot compost in your own home, consider collecting your scraps and dropping them off at a local spot. Depending on how much you generate, use a small bin with a lid and add all your scraps. You can freeze your scraps in multiple bins and drop them off at a convenient time.
4- Local Community Gardens
Our cities are home to community gardens that do accept food scraps. Check with your local community garden to see if it has a composting program you can join. The website, lacompost.org, lists several drop-off composting sites.
5- Local Farms and Fresh Markets
Our communities host numerous local farms and fresh markets. When you buy your fresh veggies and fruits, ask your local farmer if scraps donations are accepted. Most of them do, and they will be glad to take your scraps!
6- Pick Up Service
All the options listed above are free. If none work for you, you also can sign up for someone to pick up your food scraps directly at your home. For local services, see compostablela.com and compostculture.org. The cost is $15-30/month.
Why Should You Compost?
In addition to the benefit to the planet, composting provides direct evidence of how much food waste you produce. This information will help you analyze your food consumption so that you can decrease your food waste and save money. For both your planet and your wallet, reducing food waste is important. For tips on how to reduce food waste, see extrafood.org.
Ready for Composting, Then What?
If you are a scrap donor, start collecting your scraps and use the method described above that works best for you. If you are composting at home, you soon will have compost ready to be used in your garden or shared with family, friends, and neighbors. Overall, you will have access to free enriched soil in which to grow your food.
Lucie Nurdin is a resident of Pasadena who deeply cares about sustainability.
This article is a reproduction of an earlier piece published in 2021. It’s been updated for clarity and brevity.
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