Food Scrap Collection Follow Up

Here is a piece the was publish on the The People’s Vanguard of Davis

After reading many of the comments that were posted on my recent article Green Waste Containerization: Food Scrape Collection I realized that I could have done a better job framing my argument in favor of moving to a containerization program.

I argued that one of the reasons the City of Davis should move from a loss-in-the-street yard waste collection program to a containerization program is that it would allow for food scraps and other compostable materials to be added to yard waste, thus diverting this waste from the landfill to a composting facility.

The fact of the matter is, whether we move to containerize yard waste or not, for the city to meet it’s, and the State of California’s waste management goals, it needs to implement policies that promote significant waste diversion rates.

Because food scraps compose approximately 1/4 of Davis’ residential waste stream, a food scrap collection program that diverted this waste from the landfill to a composting facility would do just that.

(As a side note, as well as food scraps, a green waste curbside pick-up program also allows for the addition of food soiled items like: coffee filters, greasy pizza boxes, paper cups and plates, paper bags, napkins, tissues and towels, paper take-out boxes and containers, tissues, waxy paper milk and juice cartons. As well as other items like: cotton balls and cotton swabs, hair, fur, and feathers, compostable plastic cutlery, waxed cardboard and paper, and small pieces of lumber or sawdust from clean wood. Making potential diversion rates even higher then 25%.)

The argument I should have made was this.  The city needs to implement a food scrap collection program in order to meet it’s waste management goals. The most effective way to do this, is to combine it with a yard waste collection system which requires a move from the loose-in-the street-collection method to a containerized program.

Put a different way, if we keep the yard waste program the way it is, the city would need to implement a separate food scrap collection program. While the bin size for this program could be smaller then one that is also used for yard waste, this bin would have to be collected separately from trash, recycling, and loose-in-the-street yard waste creating the need for a 4th waste pick-up.

Clearly the most efficient way to collect yard waste and food scraps is to combine them, which requires containerization.

That being said I think interesting points were made in the comment section of my piece by Don Shor and Mark West, who make the argument that both yard waste and food scrap collection are unnecessary, containerized or not. Instead they claim that green waste can be handled on site.

Don wrote:

“In smaller, denser neighborhoods, you can simply mow the clippings back in, you can just distribute the leaves around your shrubs and on your vegetable garden and in your orchard. There is zero reason for leaves or clippings to be taken off site.”

Mark West wrote:

“Leaves and grass clippings don’t belong in the street under any circumstances in my opinion as they are easily managed on site.”

He goes on to say:

“Collecting food waste is really the only justification for collection bins, but even that isn’t necessary as food waste is easily handled with a box of red worms. My red worm box easily handles all of the food waste from our family of 6, and since it is a flow through design, all that is involved is adding food, shredded paper and an occasional pitcher of water to the top, and then watching the castings fall out the bottom. The only work is occasionally picking up the castings off the ground and spreading them around the garden. The cost of my worm box, including the worms, is less than the cost of a new collection bin, takes up less space, and won’t require any equipment on the street to service it.”

Handling green waste on site is, from an environmental impact prospective, most definitely the “greenest option” but unfortunately I don’t think it is the most practical, and I don’t think this method can be relied on to meet the city’s waste diversion goals.

While educational outreach regarding landscaping options may prove effective, because these methods require less work for people then containerizing their waste, I don’t think the same can be said for back yard composting or worm boxes.

While Mark’s comments have taught me that maintaining a worm box isn’t as complicated as I thought, the actual work involved in setting one up is a large enough hurdle that I fear many people just aren’t going to do it. If they are like me it will end up on an already long to do list, and even though people have the best intentions of getting to it, realistically few actually will.

I am a strong believer that one person’s actions while seemingly insignificant, can effect change. But I also believe that if the aggressive waste reduction goals set by our city, and state, are going to be met, then broad policies regarding how we manage our waste need to be put into place. In order to maximize their success these policies need to make waste diversion as simple and easy for people as possible.

Moving to a green waste containerization program offers us the chance to solve many of the problems created by the current loose- in-the-street collection method, while allowing the addition and potential diversion of a significant amount of our solid waste from our landfill, in one step.

Again I hope council and community member take all of these factors into consideration when deciding on this issue.


About Michelle Millet

Michelle is a 25-year resident of Davis. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the Natural Resource Commission and sits on the Executive Boards of the Explorit Science Center and Davis Bicycles! Michelle writes periodic columns for the Davis Enterprise and maintains a blog about her family's efforts to live a zero-waste lifestyle, and works as a part time substitute teacher. Michelle and her husband Mitch live in South Davis with their 11-year old daughter Emi, their 9-year old son Drew, plus their 2 dogs, and 6 chickens.

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