Food scraps return as compost to fuel community garden
November 29, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Turning trash to treasure — or, at least, rich compost — could lengthen the landfill’s lifespan.
King County Solid Waste Division officials said the average King County family tosses 45 pounds of food scraps each month. The agency estimates food recycling could divert the amount of garbage headed to the county-run Cedar Hills Regional Landfill by more than 20 percent.
So, the Solid Waste Division enlisted 10 families in the Sycamore neighborhood near downtown Issaquah to collect food scraps throughout August — and demonstrate the ease of food-scrap recycling. Overall, neighbors amassed more than 400 pounds from refuse otherwise headed for the landfill — chicken bones, pineapple tops, paper towels soaked in bacon grease and much more.
The garbage pile festering beneath the hot August sun in Donna Misner’s driveway re-emerged Nov. 16 as rich compost.
King County EcoConsumer Tom Watson joined the residents in late August to bid the garbage heap farewell on a journey to Cedar Grove Composting.
Then, 85 days and a decomposition cycle later, Misner and other Sycamore neighbors gathered on a rain-soaked morning to see the result.
Watson returned to Issaquah as Cedar Grove Composting delivered compost produced from the Sycamore scraps to the Issaquah Flatland Community Garden near the AtWork! Recycling Center. The neighbors and Watson heaved compost in wheelbarrows to spread on garden plots.
On the Web
In August, the King County Solid Waste Division enlisted Issaquah families to learn about food-scrap recycling in the public education campaign, “Recycle More. It’s Easy To Do.” Learn more about recycling food scraps and food-soiled paper at www.recyclefood.com. Read the article about the August food-scrap recycling event at http://bit.ly/rcKJ18.
“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 and the food bank receives nutritious, organic food.”
Organizers donate 25 percent of food grown in the garden to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.
Susan Thoman, a Cedar Grove Composting representative, said crews at the composting facility followed the castoff banana peels and grease-stained pizza boxes through the process. The company donated compost to the community garden in addition to the small amount generated from the Sycamore scraps.
(Cedar Grove Composting is near the landfill in unincorporated King County between Issaquah and Maple Valley.)
“It is great to see how this neighborhood worked together to turn their food scraps and food-soiled paper into a resource for their community,” Thoman said.
Misner said the ease of food-scrap recycling came as a surprise. Initially, other family members needed some reminding to divert food scraps from the trashcan to the food-scrap bin, she said, but the habit caught on fast.
“If we all recycled these items in our curbside yard-waste carts, we could save room in the landfill for the things that really need to be there, and give food scraps a second life as compost,” said Gerty Coville, a Solid Waste Division project and program manager.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.