Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Food waste composting-same as yard debris?

Recently we had a customer write in with some questions about food waste composting. Our neighbors to the south in Portland, have had curbside food waste for a little over a year now and we get this question a lot. When is it coming to Vancouver? Why can't we just throw our food waste in the yard debris carts? 

Below is my answer to our customer. Perhaps you'll benefit from the information, as well:

The facilities that process yard debris are different from the facilities that process food waste. The process for food waste composting is much more complicated than yard debris and the established facilities where our yard debris is sent are not permitted to compost food waste. 

There has been some discussion of curbside collection of food waste, but those decisions are made at a City and County government level. What I like to say is that the City and County make the rules for waste and we implement them.

In Portland, curbside food scraps were being sent to a facility in Washington County. Unfortunately, due to many problems, this facility is on the verge of not accepting this type of waste. Food waste composting in general is a very new concept-and as such, there are still many “bugs” being worked out of the system. You mentioned waste being turned into green energy. I believe the process you’re speaking of is anaerobic digestion, but that is not being done with any of the food scraps collected in the Portland area.

My prediction is that we will someday have curbside collection of food scraps here in Clark County. However, when that will be I really couldn’t say. In the meantime, I’d highly encourage you to check out the backyard (home) composting workshops put on by the Master Composter program here. I learned everything I know about my own backyard composting by attending one of these workshops. A large portion of kitchen wastes can be composted in a home setting and someday, we may even be able to put the other food waste items (grains, dairy and meat) in a curbside cart.

I hope this helps answer your question. If anything I’ve written is not clear, please let me know and I’d be happy to elaborate.

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