#UNLITTER Your Organic Waste

By Tessa Whitby @UNLITTER team

Sometimes the road to climate change is paved with good intentions. There is no doubt that plastic pollution is a mountainous problem with consequences that we will be dealing with for a long-time, but plastic is not the only thing we can #UNLITTER. Have you ever thought about how your organic waste could be adding to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage? Just because it decomposes doesn’t mean it belongs in a landfill. Your kitchen scraps, yard waste, and even Christmas Trees could be creating a bigger carbon footprint than you realize. The good news is, it’s not that hard to #UNLITTER your organic waste!

Cities like San Francisco have truly set the bar for curbside compost pick-up and organic waste management mastery since the 1980s. They have collected over one million tons of organic waste since beginning their composting journey, and in recent years have made it mandatory for all residents. People must have compost bins for their organic waste to be picked up and then brought to composting centers that properly turn waste into healthy nutrient-rich soil and mulch. This single American city collects over 600 tons a day of organic waste.

Although San Francisco may have been the first US city to take necessary measures, it will not be the last! The great state of Vermont and several other US cities are also taking the initiative, such as Boulder, Denver, Seattle, Portland (OR). Even New York has Zero Waste goals they are enforcing and starting to make more effort toward community composting and turning waste into reusable resources. The speed of progress can be a bit sluggish in most places as far as government action, and not all cities offer curbside pick up yet, but many independent groups are taking action themselves.

(Image) "Curbside Composting!" by Becky Striepe is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One independent compost service that really deserves a round of applause is Compost Pedallers from Austin, TX. This bike-powered compost collection service has recently closed its business but offers a perfect model of how independent start-up compost programs can put pressure on the government to take action!

The Compost Pedallers were directly responsible for reshaping community compost action in Austin using mainly bicycles and pull wagons to collect and process organic waste separately. Their extraordinary efforts transformed community mindsets and actually pushed the city hard enough to create a government-organized program called Austin Resource Recovery to take over. The program has extended compost services to around 90,000 homes and continues to work towards its Zero Waste goals for 2040 and transform waste into resources.

(Image: @compedallers Instagram account- compost accomplishment data)

Here is an excellent list of start-up companies and organizations around the country that are eco-solutionaries when it comes to organic waste. If you aren’t sure if your city offers municipal composting options, search for independent compost services in your city and let us know what you find. We would love to expand this resource list and empower more action with organic waste management!

  • Brooklyn, New York: BK Rots - A youth-led bike-powered compost collection program started in Bushwick.

  • Los Angeles, CA: LA Compost - This composting service started out as a small, volunteer, bike-powered collection program. It has grown a great deal and now has community compost hubs at multiple sites throughout LA county.

  • Sacramento, CA: Green Restaurants Alliance (GRAS)- A non-profit that composts waste from restaurants at local farms.

  • Portland, ME: Garbage to Garden- A residential composting service that makes composting easy.

  • Boston, MA: Bootstrap Compost- A compost collection service for a variety of schools, companies, and residences.

  • Washington, DC: Veteran Compost- Keeping food waste out of landfills and employing veterans.

  • Chicago, IL: Healthy Soil Compost LLC - Monthly subscription composting company that works with a commercial earthworm farm to process organic waste into nutrient-rich soil.

  • Philadelphia, PA: Bennett Compost- Another monthly subscription compost collection service that makes weekly pick-ups from residential homes.

  • North Carolina: CompostNow - This service extends to multiple cities and North Carolina regions for both communities and local businesses.

  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Compost Crusader - A composting company that expands through multiple Southwest Wisconsin regions, working with residential homes, events, restaurants, commercial businesses, and schools.