People in the United States waste more than a third of all of the food they produce, but more than 180 cities and towns are beginning to realize that wasted food can be valuable; they are asking residents to separate unwanted food from the rest of their trash and put it in a curbside compost bin. The idea is to stop sending food waste to the landfill, where it generates harmful methane gas pollution, and start turning it into something useful, like compost.
In 2011, Portland, Oregon, launched a curbside compost program in which residents are encouraged to put food scraps into the city’s green yard waste bin. Since then, the amount of garbage sent to the landfill has decreased by 37 percent. According to Bruce Walker, the city’s solid waste and recycling program manager, the program also reduces the environmental footprint of the trash heap.
Getting people to separate their food waste, however, can be difficult. To motivate its residents to put more food waste in the compost bin, the city of Seattle, Washington, has proposed both making curbside composting mandatory and fining residents a dollar every time they put a disproportionate volume of food waste in their trash.