Californians are doing a great job of keeping their trash out of landfills. The State's current 66-percent "diversion rate" -- the proportion of what we discard that isn't simply taken to the landfill -- is great news, because landfilling is associated with climate change. Most of those landfilled materials are actually resources that can be recycled.
Today in California, organics (food and plant materials) make up the majority of what is landfilled. And, since landfill space is precious, that is a big concern for California. Even more problematic is that decomposing organics create methane, one of the largest constituents of landfill gas.
One of the best ways to divert organics from landfilling is through composting. And, composting at home is a terrific way to turn waste into a resource you can actually use. The benefits of composting at home include less waste and potentially lower garbage costs; creating a nutrient-rich soil amendment that helps increase plant production; and decreasing the amount of water required in your garden.
In Central Contra Costa there are several options for turning food and yard waste into compost. Residents can create a compost pile in their backyard, or use a homemade or commercially manufactured bin. The Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority offers free 90-minute workshops on "Backyard Composting," and will even discount the cost of a selected commercial bin if you live in its service area (Alamo, Danville, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda Walnut Creek and adjacent areas of unincorporated Contra Costa).
Another way to compost at home is "vermicomposting," which uses worms to process organic materials. Worm castings are high in valuable nutrients and offer many of the same benefits of traditional compost without a lot of the labor and yard space. The CCCSWA offers vermicomposting workshops, too, and includes worms and a bin to get you started. These workshops cost about $15 per family. Once you've gotten your composting project started you may be eligible for a discount on your garbage bill.
For people that prefer a less "hands-on" method of diverting their organics, most single-family homes in the CCCSWA service area can use their green-waste carts to divert both yard trimmings and food scraps. Things you might not ordinarily put into a backyard compost pile (e.g. meat, poultry and cheese) can go in with your yard trimmings. More information about the CCCSWA Food Scrap Recycling Program can be found at www.wastediversion.org.
Your food and green waste materials are collected and taken to large-scale compost processors in the Bay Area. The resulting product is usually sold to landscape companies or retailers.
Diverting food and green-waste from landfills is a winning proposition all around. The environment benefits from decreased landfill emissions, and residents win by reducing their garbage and getting plants that are beautiful and healthy. If you would like more information on composting programs offered by the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority, please visit: www.wastediversion.org/composting.
If you have a question, comment or idea about current or future solid waste programs, please email them to Lois Courchaine email@example.com