Zero Waste Will Soon be 25% Easier in Davis

The City of Davis has a long history of taking progressive action when it comes to reducing our waste. We got our start in 1970 when Davis residents Richard Gertman, and Barney and Margaret Hill formed the Recycling Awareness Committee of Davis. This group, whose actions began with the coordination of a newspaper recycling program, that consisted of asking residents to bring their newspapers to drop boxes located around the town evolved, by 1974, into one of nations first curbside newspaper, bottle, and aluminum recycling programs, providing Davis residents a convenient way to divert these materials from the landfill.

Now, over 40 years later, thanks to a council decision made in April to implement a containerized organics collection program, Davis will join 48 other cities in California that allow for curbside pick-up of all compostable materials. (The current program only allows for composting of yard waste). Once the program is in place all compostable materials, which basically includes anything that was once alive, or made from something that was living, can go into the bins, allowing Davis residents to divert an estimated 25% of their household waste from the landfill.

As someone who is actively attempting to reduce my family’s waste I’m thrilled with the passage of this ordinance, as it will make a significant impact on how much material ends up in my my family’s trash can.

While backyard composting is the best way to deal with compostable waste, and the city offers excellent classes on this topic, composting my own waste comes with challenges I seem incapable off overcoming. Things as basic remembering to turn my pile every once and while pose a big enough barrier to success, much less figuring out the balance of nitrogen-rich “green stuff” and carbon-rich “brown stuff”.

Apparently temperature is important, needless to say mine never felt any warmer the then air surrounding it, which, from the research I’ve done, indicates that the microbial activity required for decomposition to occur never happened in my backyard.

I have never figured out when I’m supposed to let the pile “rest”, maybe that is because no pile I’ve attempted ever actually “worked” long enough to need a “rest”.

I hesitate to mention the worm box that we attempted a few summers ago. Lets just say that I still feel guilty about the horrible end these worms met roasting in the hot Davis summer sun, when we went on vacation and did not think of taking precautions to ensure the worms survival while we were gone, but I have vowed never to put another worm through that miserable experience, even if it meant having to toss some banana peels in the trash.

We have owned chickens now for over a year, and while we throw them a majority of our food scraps this method of trash diversion still has limitations. One is that while I’m happy to toss them carrot peels and stale bread, I’m not so keen on tossing them any meat or diary based food scraps. Plus given the number of rats or mice, I’m not sure which because I didn’t look long enough to confirm, that scurried out of the food scrap pile the last time I “turned” it, I think it is safe to say that the chickens are not the only ones enjoying my son’s leftover pasta, or my daughters apple core. I look forward to receiving my composting bin, so I will no longer have to choose between supporting the ever-growing rodent population in my yard, there is really only so much steal bread the chickens can eat, and sending my leftovers to the landfill.

While for the most part I’ve convinced my family to switch to the usable cloth variety, a fair number of food soiled paper napkins and paper towels still manage to find their way into our garbage along with the compostable food containers our dinner sometimes comes in, including the more then occasional cardboard pizza box, that is a little too grease stained to place in the recycling bin. Once the new composting program is in full swing, all these items can be placed in my composting bin, instead of the trash.

With the addition of this comprehensive organics collection system the City of Davis’ recycling program, which started as a modest newspaper collection system, formed by environmental conscious individuals over 40 years ago, now gives Davis residence the ability to divert almost all of their day to day household waste from the landfill, allowing the city to move one step closer to reaching its waste towards reduction targets, while giving my family another way to reach our goal of zero waste.

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.

1 Response

  1. Gosh, I just started experimenting with a worm bin and I was already worried about very cold winter and very hot summer. But I didn’t think about vacation time yet… Who will take care of them? Is that a question you could ask your neighbor: Will you take care of my worms for the next three weeks?

    I’d be also very happy if this town here would offer organics composting program.

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