Neighborhood turns trash, food scraps, to treasure, rich compost
August 30, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Residents donate 400 pounds of garbage for composting effort
The half-gnawed corncobs, shorn pineapple tops, slimy banana peels and grease-stained pizza boxes simmered in the midday sun — a concoction assembled from the kitchen castoffs of 10 Issaquah families.
The festering pile in Donna Misner’s driveway Aug. 24 included more than 400 pounds collected from residents in the Sycamore neighborhood near downtown Issaquah.
King County joined the residents to increase food-scrap recycling for a month to accomplish dual goals: demonstrate the ease of food-scrap recycling and turn the garbage into rich compost for a community garden.
“I don’t consider this waste. People always joke, ‘Oh, it’s garbage and it’s stinky. This is a material. This is a resource — that’s what this is right here,” King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson said during a midday event in the Sycamore driveway. “It may smell a little bit on a hot day, but when you do it at home, it’s not going to smell. When Cedar Grove makes it into compost, the final product is a product that’s going to help your garden grow. It’s a resource.”
Cedar Grove Composting plans to transform the refuse into compost and then donate the results to the Issaquah Flatland Community Garden near the AtWork! Recycling Center by late fall. Gardeners send 25 percent of the organic bounty to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.
“The garden is a nice focal point for the Issaquah community,” AtWork! Community Development Manager Dennis Wadja said. “Neighbors walk to the garden, children are exposed to growing food, the food bank receives nutritious organic food and space is available for the disabled population. We see this recycling project as an opportunity to connect deeper to the wider community.”
(Cedar Grove Composting is near the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in unincorporated King County between Issaquah and Maple Valley.)
Officials and teams from the King County Solid Waste Division and Cedar Grove Composting — including a county staffer dressed as a banana — gathered at the Misner home along Issaquah Creek as Tiger Mountain basked in the sunshine beyond.
“I learned a lot about how much waste my family alone is creating every week,” Misner said. “Everyone should recycle their food scraps and food-soiled paper — it’s easy.”
From garbage to ‘green’ jobs
Watson donned boots and gloves, and then climbed atop the spongy pile to demonstrate some of the items homeowners can pitch into the compost pile, rather than the garbage can.
“We are showing the circle of life — how food scraps don’t need to go into the garbage,” he said as a sickly sweet odor wafted from the scraps. “The food scraps like that and food-soiled paper makes up more than 30 percent of the garbage that would go to Cedar Hills landfill. Instead, it can be made into a useful product — compost, an organic product.”
The average single-family household in King County generates 475 pounds of food scraps and food-soiled paper each year.
Issaquah residents started curbside food-scrap composting in 2005. The city requires restaurants and other food sellers to compost food scraps, and use compostable or recyclable packaging for takeout containers. Issaquah School District campuses also compost food scraps and food-soiled paper.
“We have done away with a lot of things that previously would have been thrown away,” Mayor Ava Frisinger said at the event. “Local businesses have stepped up. They’ve started collection programs and provide residents with options, so that recyclable food scraps and papers no longer have to go to landfills.”
The effort could also create economic benefits, in addition to a possible boon for the environment.
“This is a great way in the community to produce ‘green’ jobs,” Watson said. “All of this that goes into what Cedar Grove Composting does and Waste Management and the government folks that work on it, and other kinds of materials that are turned into new products, the companies that sell those, that’s something that helps the economy.”
The food-scrap recycling push fits into a county policy, Zero Waste by 2030, a decadeslong effort to recycle, resell and reuse valuable materials usually sent to the landfill. Studies indicate about 750,000 tons of the almost 1 million tons sent to the Cedar Hills landfill could be composted, recycled or reused.
“It’s more of an economic benefit to get this waste turned into something useful than it is just to stick it into a hole in the ground,” Watson said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.