I am a new member of the CMA team, born and raised in a small town in California. Growing up there, I watched different methods for recycling and curbside pick-up come and go. I experienced separating recyclables; paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum (and even crushing cans to turn in for cash), with another bin for trash. I then experienced throwing all the recyclables into one bin, still separate from trash. I did home composting for our garden because there was no pick-up for yard waste and food scraps.
When I moved to downtown San Jose for college, it was a much different experience. Everything – garbage and recycle – went into the same bin, collected every week, then sorted at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). As an environmental studies student, we toured these facilities and talked about these systems in class. I was bewildered at how the system that had taught me to separate recyclables now allowed for things to mix and even become contaminated (were people really that lazy)? At the facilities, it was explained they recovered much more recycling doing it this way, and that spelled success. We were then told the recyclables went to China, and we were left with another question ‘Why?!’ Experiencing different systems truly opened my eyes to many complexities and challenges with recycling within solid waste systems.
When I moved last year to Tacoma, Washington, I was thrilled to see curbside pick-up of food scraps and yard waste. In my neighborhood, trash is collected every other week (instead of every week), and yard waste and kitchen scraps the alternating weeks. Since I was new to this, I was concerned with trash pick-up being every other week- would our trash pile up? No! With proper separation, less trash comes out of the house and most ‘waste’ is diverted to recycling and food scraps! In Tacoma, food/yard pick-up has different standards than other places, such as Seattle. For example, Tacoma does not accept compostable can liners (what?), so be sure to do some research in your area/neighborhood to help make the composters’ lives a little easier!
Curb-side pick-up of food/yard waste is a privilege that many communities are striving for, while community composters are on the rise. With my environmental studies background, my experience as an educator, moving to different communities with different systems and services, and in my work at CMA, my awareness and curiosity about solid waste programs is growing. I am proud to work with composters, suppliers, and compostable product producers in the spirit of collaboration, as this is critical to creating and improving on successful and sustainable systems. At CMA, our whole team works to connect systems and address gaps, energized by the challenge, and the learning things we need to know from others.
Find out how to help support composting programs in your area, and what you can do to keep food scraps out of landfills!