Recycling Awhile back I asked our landlord about getting a compost bin for our building. A little while we finally got one and here are some thoughts.

First of the composting we do isn't the pile of crap in the back yard type. It's hauled away just like the other trash by the garbage company. Then they dump it into huge piles, rotate through it with bulldozers and when it's ready, sell it off to various farms, wineries and garden centers. While there is the extra transportation involved I think this is the best way. Recently I as in the Presidio and they had a little exhibition at their garden center where there were various examples of composting, some in bins, some out, and with various composition. It stank, the compost didn't seem all that great, and it just looked like a pile of trash. Part of composting is getting a measure of heat from the pile to degrade the material and in smaller piles that's tough to come by. Secondly, why should each homeowner need to become an expert at this sort of thing? Let one or tow pro's handle it offsite. Finally, at some point the resulting compost will need to be trucked off anyway, so why not just do it to begin with?

San Francisco's system is pretty slick. Black container for trash, blue for recyclables and green for compostables. Somehow they do the recycle sorting all off site, and I've always been curious on how effective that really is, or if they just use a magnet to grab the good stuff, and dump the rest in the landfill. Assuming they do recycle, it's a pretty good deal. Commodity prices are high so the company gets to sell that as well as the compost. Fewer tons of garbage means smaller landfill fees.

It's been about four weeks since we've received the compost bin, and our experience has been very positive. It seems like we fill up the little green bin in about a week. We donít' have a sink disposal so this is stuff we'd be throwing in the garbage. There isn't any smell to speak of, and we throw all foodstuffs in there. Egg shells, banana peels, bread, etc. Volume wise it isn't much compared to the recycling, but weight-wise it's obvious that a fair amount of our trash was compostable.

It's very interesting to see what remains in the trash after you've recycled and composted the rest. It's not that much actually, and it's almost entirely composed of plastic wrappings from things. We already 'recycle' plastic bags for cleaning up after Baika. So whether its a zip lock or a bag from a loaf of bread it performs the same duty...pun intended. But the remaining pile of plastic wrappings gets one thinking. The little green compost bin uses little green bags made from corn that are truly bio-degradable. This is a fairly new technology, not like the first stab at biodegradable bags that just had them degrade into small nasty pieces of plastic. Putting aside for a moment the increased pressure on corn prices, for it's not a stretch in my mind to mandate manufacturers to wrap their products in these type of biodegradable bags. One more thing to the green bin!

So overall, with very little effort/impact on the consumer's part, a lot can be done to divert the flow of trash to landfills. Just like conservation is the quickest and most impactful route to using less energy, the best was to is to reduce consumption of 'stuff' in general. Second best is dealing intelligently with the byproducts that are inevitable and the system we use in San Francisco seems to be a really good model to be used for other municipalities around the country.

Random 'best-of' pictures:

ouch - death valley jan09

Big Basin view to ocean

dora canal florida