Light Wave

U.S. News

Turning the Tables on Trash: U.S. Composting Set to Catch Up with Recycling

By Jake Beardslee · June 29, 2024

The United States is seeing a push towards making composting as common as recycling, driven by states, local governments, and private companies. While progress is slow, the environmental benefits are significant.  Noah Buscher / Unsplash

Composting helps reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions while improving soil health. Major food chains like Chipotle and packaged food companies such as PepsiCo are exploring its potential. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 3.7% of residential food waste was composted as of April 2023.  Zarateman / Wikimedia

Scott Smithline, former director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, now with Mill, a food waste management company, told CNBC: "Organics recycling is where traditional recycling was two or three decades ago in terms of development."  Conscious Design / Unsplash

Composting options vary by location, including at-home methods, curbside bins, drop-off sites, and private services. Legislative efforts are driving adoption, with Vermont and California leading the way through mandatory composting laws. Other states are closely watching these initiatives.  Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Challenges remain, including funding issues and a lack of composting facilities. Frank Franciosi, executive director of the US Composting Council, estimates: "We probably need anywhere between about 1,000 to 2,000 facilities in the U.S."  Neslihan Gunaydin / Unsplash

For those interested in composting, options range from simple backyard setups to private collection services costing $30-$50 monthly. New technologies are also emerging, such as Mill's $1,000 food waste processing bin and Bigbelly Solar's public space collection program.  American Public Power Association / Unsplash

Lauren Click, executive director of Let's Go Compost, emphasizes the importance of composting despite potential costs, telling CNBC: "Households that pay for municipal trash services aren't likely to see their bill drop because they compost, but composting is still important nonetheless."  Ben Neale / Unsplash

As awareness grows, Amy Landers, head of Gardens That Matter, told The Washington Post: “A lot of the composting guidelines are built for the safest, lowest-risk situation,” she explained. "Your compost bin should never keep you up at night.”  Lenka Dzurendova / Unsplash