The wild world of composting – Are you getting it right?

To solve the plastic pollution crisis, companies need to rethink how products are delivered to consumers and invest significantly in reusable and refillable delivery systems.

When my Austin neighborhood introduced composting, I jumped for joy. My fiance, Ali, and I are extremely committed to cutting waste in our home so this was a really easy way to further avoid our brown trash can and the landfills.

For those of you not familiar with composting or why it’s worthwhile, the EPA shares that, “Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead.”

So as people at home and commercial restaurants look to find new ways of reducing their carbon footprint, composting is a fairly easy solution contributing back into the circle of life and feeding our soil with much-needed nutrients.

 

Replacing Single-Use Plastics

A fast-moving trend in restaurants, bars, and food-trucks is to be out with the old single-use paper, plastic, and evil styrofoam and introduce a new kind of single-use take away container called bio-plastics.

From afar, it sounds fantastic. Rather than creating garbage, we can now feel good about throwing out these new compostable containers, cups, and plastic ware.

Now, cities are taking notice and leading by example. For example, the city of Berkley, CA passed a city ordinance not only charging consumers for disposable trash, but this trash must also be compostable.

However, when you really dig deep, the grass is not that much greener. In lifecycle assessments about the impact of these new bioplastics and compostable containers, it turns out, compostables don’t necessarily outshine plastics when it comes to environmental benefits.

These new materials can muddy-up the waste stream which creates even more trash. More importantly, it’s doing nothing to reduce mainstream consumer’s obsession with single-use products.  Whether it be a to-go coffee, leftovers from a restaurant, or a milk jug from your local supermarket, single-use items are quick, easy, and match our fast pace lifestyles.

Even in a perfect world where all of the bioplastics and compostable containers make it into a compost pile and breakdown into usable soil, many certified organic farmers can’t use it. The National Organic Program considers these compostable materials as synthetic and thus cannot be used in compost for organic production (Civil Eats).

If restaurants, cities, and consumers are truly interested in lessening their carbon footprint and reducing waste and global warming, then we need to shift our habits. Instead of finding “better” ways to create trash, reduce and reuse is the way to go.

“To solve the plastic pollution crisis, companies need to rethink how products are delivered to consumers and invest significantly in reusable and refillable delivery systems,” said Greenpeace.

 

What should the average consumer do?

As you read this, maybe your shocked, maybe your annoyed, maybe you feel cheated, hopefully, you care. I, myself, feel mislead. I know that reducing and reusing is the best course of action, but when I was out purchasing items in the “green containers” I didn’t feel so bad tossing them in the compost bins available.

It’s not reasonable to think consumers will bring their own takeaway containers everywhere they go, but you can take baby steps.

Go out and purchase a to-go coffee mug and a reusable water bottle and start there.

Then, think twice about ordering take out. Why not go and enjoy yourself and eat in at your favorite restaurants?

Finally, be a conscious consumer when you shop at the grocery store. If something is wrapped in paper or plastic, can you find it in the bulk section? Rice, beans, nuts, spices, all of these things can be found at most grocery stores in a bulk section and are often cheaper when purchased in bulk versus in packages.

The key to living a more eco-conscious life is to remember this:

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If you have any questions, let me know!

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