Organic waste materials include food waste, grass clippings, agricultural byproducts, storm debris, bio solids, and residues from paper production and other manufacturing processes.
Compost (the product of organics recycling produced by the natural decomposition of organic materials) is closely tied to land rejuvenation and has numerous benefits:
- Improves soil health and structure
- Increases drought resistance
- Sequesters carbon in soil
- Improves plant growth
- Aids in water conservation
- Reduces need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers
- Helps prevent nutrient runoff and soil erosion
Organics recycling and composting programs comprise all activities that collect, process and use these organic waste-derived materials, including their managed decomposition. It is inherently local and part of the natural ecosystem. It is a place-based industry, which cannot be outsourced abroad. Compost and composting can be a valuable resource, a local economic development strategy and a waste management mechanism.
However, when organic waste materials are sent to the landfill, they take up unnecessary space and generate methane as they decompose. Methane is a greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and landfills account for more than 20 percent of all methane emissions.
While composting has increased in popularity and use over the past few years, especially with regards to yard trimmings, there is still room to improve.
- 137.7 million tons of municipal solid waste were sent to the landfill annually. Of this, food comprised the majority at 22%.
- 61.3% of yard trimmings (21.3 million tons) were composted as compared to 61.1% (21.1 million tons) in 2014.
- 5.3% of food (and other organic materials) was composted, compared to 1.3% in 2014 (1.94 million tons).