Harvesting Hope: Unveiling the Green Revolution of Backyard Composting

In a world increasingly confronted by environmental challenges, the call for sustainable solutions echoes louder than ever. Amidst this clamor, one humble practice stands out as a beacon of eco-friendly innovation: backyard composting. From kitchen food scraps to garden waste, composting offers a simple yet powerful means to transform what might otherwise be considered refuse into a valuable resource. Diving into the realms of composting, what is unveiled is not only a method of waste reduction, but a green revolution with far-reaching benefits for our planet. Join RecycleMore on a journey with the use of food scraps to enriched soil, where the magic of composting takes center stage in the quest for a more sustainable future.

What is Composting?

Composting is a controlled, natural process of decomposing organic matter (such as fruits, vegetables, food scraps, and plant materials), facilitated by microbes, organisms, and time. This process involves combining “greens” (moisture rich waste) with “browns” (dry materials like leaves, lawn clippings, bark, and cardboard) in a pile, which is periodically turned to aerate the mixture and promote microbial interaction. Over time, this interaction heats up the pile, resulting in the breakdown of organic matter into a nutrient-rich material known as compost. The actual process of composting can take anywhere from weeks to a year, depending on factors like size, attention, and materials used.

Benefits of Composting

The benefits of composting are multifaceted. One of the most significant advantages is its role in diverting organic waste from landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 5% of the 66.2 million tons of food waste generated from retail in 2019 was properly composted. In the U.S., food is the single most common material sent to landfills, comprising of 24.1 percent of municipal solid waste. When organic waste ends up in landfills without aeration, it decomposes anaerobically, producing methane—a potent greenhouse gas and a super pollutant 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. According to CalRecycle, 20% of the state’s methane comes from organic waste within our landfills. By composting, we not only prevent valuable natural resources from being wasted but also mitigate the release of methane into the atmosphere.

In addition, composting provides a sustainable solution for enriching soil health. The nutrient-rich compost produced can be used as a soil amendment, enhancing soil structure, moisture retention, and nutrient levels. This, in turn, promotes healthier plant growth and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers, thus minimizing chemical runoff and its adverse effects on water quality. It can save you money!

Beyond its environmental benefits, composting fosters a deeper connection between individuals and their waste, environment, and planet. It empowers communities to take proactive steps toward sustainability on both a local and global scale. By embracing composting as a way of life, everyone can take part in reducing the ecological footprint and contribute to the preservation of our precious ecosystems for generations to come.

SB 1383 and the Role of Composting

Organics and food waste material in the landfill has a direct connection to climate change, contributing to bigger wildfires, stronger storms, and devastating droughts. Senate Bill (SB) 1383 Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy, stands as a pivotal legislative stride towards fostering a more environmentally conscious society and climate goals. California law emphasizes the mandatory separation of organic materials and recyclables from general waste. And, by requiring either subscription to designated collection services or self-hauling organics to appropriate facilities for diversion, SB 1383 aims to significantly curtail organic waste disposal to the landfill, with a targeted reduction of 75% by 2025.

Additionally, SB 1383 endeavors to address food insecurity by targeting the rescue of 20% of edible surplus of food for redistribution to those in need by 2025. Surplus edible food can be repurposed to nourish communities rather than languishing in landfills.


Source: https://calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/slcp/

Types of Composting           

There are various types of ways to compost. Whether it’s done on site, at the point of waste generation, or in a large scale, centralized facility, composting helps to keep the high volume of organic material out of landfills and turns it into a useful product.

Most composting involves one of these types of approaches:

  • Aerobic Composting (With Oxygen)

This type of composting requires environments with oxygen to “aerate” the pile, to facilitate bacterial growth. This is the most frequently utilized style of backyard composting. Bins are commonly used to contain composting materials, with air holes to let the oxygen in. This style of composting requires the contents of the pile to be periodically rotated to ensure aeration. Some tumbler-style bins come with the use of a handle to easily turn the pile. Composting in an enclosed bin provides the benefit of aesthetics, moisture retention and can also discourage critters.

  • Anerobic Composting (Without Oxygen)

This type of composting is typically done in big industrial cylinders and can take a longer time to make the final product of compost than aerobic composting. This method releases biogases including methane and carbon dioxide and can be very stinky if not properly contained. This process is not recommended by RecycleMore for backyard composting because of the level of management required to contain the flammable gases produced, and is not appropriate in a suburban neighborhood, home, or school location. Large industrial and municipal operations may use this type of composting as there are systems in place to manage the environmental hazards and biproducts created.

  • Vermicomposting

This is a type of composting which uses red- wriggler worms to break down food scraps, instead of bacteria. This method of composting is not suitable for yard waste. The worms eat food scraps and break down the materials with their bodies, quickly producing a nutrient dense soil amendment called worm castings. The worms must be kept warm (not too hot and not too cold) to create the right environment for them to thrive.  Vermicomposting can be a fun project for your family or school program. You can even do this type of composting indoors, in a small apartment, because the worms can be kept very neat in a bin and odor-free when the worms are healthy. Access the RecycleMore website page on Vermicomposting to learn more.

For a more in-depth view of the various approaches to composting, visit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website page:  CLICK HERE

Composting Resources

Discount Composting Supplies

For those eager to elevate your composting efforts, backyard composting offers an engaging and environmentally impactful solution. Whether you prefer traditional composting, harnessing air, time, and microbes, or exploring vermicomposting with the aid of helpful critters like worms, RecycleMore is your go-to resource. RecycleMore offers a diverse selection of composting essentials at discounted rates for residents of West Contra Costa County, making sustainability more accessible. Access the RecycleMore website to view what composting supplies are available at the discounted rate and how to order: CLICK HERE

Kitchen Food Scrap Pail

To help you manage your food scraps in the kitchen and use the scraps for composting piles, use a kitchen food scrap collection pail. You can collect the scraps and easily transfer them to your composting pile or place them in your green organics cart for regular curbside pickup. West Contra Costa County residents can acquire a FREE food scrap collection pail by contacting your local City Hall. To learn more about this program and contact information, CLICK HERE.

Compost Giveaway

The organic waste collected curbside from your green cart is sent to a composting facility, where it undergoes transformation into nutrient-rich compost. As a resident in West Contra Costa County, compost is available to you for FREE each month. To learn more about the available compost for Republic Service area customers and residents of El Cerrito, please CLICK HERE.

 

Composting is an amazing process, and the final product of compost can play a critical role in helping work towards a more environmentally conscious future.

Join RecycleMore in making a positive difference for our planet while enjoying the benefits of hands-on composting education and fun!

 

 

Building a Sanctuary with Scraps: An interview with El Cerrito Creative ReUse Artist Residency Awardee Kloe Chan

When contemplating waste and reuse, seldom do discussions touch upon safety, identity, and history. Kloe Chan, however, pioneers a transformative approach to waste, both in metaphorical and physical realms, crafting brilliant works of art. At its core, Kloe’s creations aspire to illuminate, initiate dialogue, and provide solace to those in need.

Born and raised in the bustling metropolitan landscape of Shanghai, Kloe yearned for a connection to nature amid the urban sprawl. Artistic expression has always been integral to Kloe’s life, spending summers creating art with siblings and embodying a playful group of storytellers and creatives. Despite this artistic inclination, the rapid urbanization of their community distanced them from the beautiful natural world emphasized in the ancient Chinese poetry they had learned of in school, fueling Kloe’s desire to bridge the gap.

From the age of six, Kloe’s fascination with trash burgeoned, developing a keen awareness of its origin and destination. Recognizing humans as the sole species generating non-biodegradable waste, Kloe reflects on our struggle to coexist harmoniously with nature.

“Human beings are the only living species that produce trash that doesn’t naturally go back to the ecosystem- we have intelligence to make choices and actions but also, we are also so dumb that we can’t live in harmony with nature- we can’t be a part of it in a way that feels reciprocal and not taking, exploiting, and removing from other living beings. We are still figuring it out.”

-Kloe Chan

Challenging societal norms dictating the need for premium art supplies, Kloe embraced creative reuse as their artistic journey’s guiding principle. Shifting from an Animation Major to Sculpture and Community Arts at the California College of the Arts, Kloe sought agency in crafting works that echoed their experiences and identity.

YOUR WASTE, MY CLOTHES

“Deconstruct garments to feel the hands of those who constructed it.”

“Dye the strips of fabric in Avocado pits to smear my waste on it.”

“Practice Chinese on it with rust water to reclaim my language.”

“Sew it back into matching sister outfits to re-embrace those who truly matter.”

Kloe’s art delves into lived experiences using waste and reuse materials. By dismantling and recontextualizing items deemed unworthy, they offer a fresh perspective on what society deems undesirable. The culmination of Kloe’s dedication to reuse is evident in their work showcased in the El Cerrito Creative ReUse Artist Residency Program, titled “I Will Knit Us a Sanctuary.” What started as a modest project blossomed into a monumental reuse installation, enveloping the space, and inviting visitors to explore Kloe’s inner world as well as donated, salvaged, and repurposed fabrics, fibers, and furnishings.

I WILL KNIT US A SANCTUARY

“For the longest time, the space between sheets has been the safest place I could imagine. It is the place where I heard my grandmother whisper a prayer every night before falling asleep, where my sister and I cried over the death of Dumbledore and then over Professor Snape after reading the latest Harry Potter book, where I stayed up with my best friends to dawn at our first sleepover. The space between sheets was my safe haven, until it was violated by another.”

 

Linking sanctuary and safety within the confines of their creations, Kloe draws parallels to the loss of safety resulting from violation and harm. With each knot, Kloe reclaims safety and shelter not only for themselves but for others, transforming waste into a haven of refuge and intimacy.

                

 

Photos courtesy of Webster Ngoc Nguyen of RecycleMore.

A Season of Sensational Scraps: Upcycling your Waste for a Crafty Winter Wonderland

During the holiday season, our thoughts often gravitate towards cherished moments with family, the warmth of togetherness, and the embrace of time-honored traditions. However, amidst the joy, it’s crucial to turn our attention to an aspect that might not be immediately apparent: waste. From the remnants of festive feasts to the aftermath of unwrapped gifts, each element contributes to our environmental footprint. This article delves into a mindful exploration of how we can transform everyday household items, typically labeled as “waste,” into engaging and creative endeavors to decorate your home for the holidays. With sustainability and reuse at center stage, here are a collection of activities designed to infuse sustainability, reusability, and joy into your festive celebrations.

 

Toilet paper rolls, common and budget-friendly, are versatile materials readily available in households, providing a canvas for a multitude of enjoyable and imaginative projects. With an assortment of colored paper, whether new or repurposed, along with scissors, glue, markers, and other basic crafting supplies, you have the ingredients to create a stunning cast of winter companions. Unleash your creativity to fashion charming figures, including gingerbread characters, snowmen, beloved Christmas icons like Santa and his Elves, and an assortment of winter-themed animals. The only constraint lies in the quantity of empty toilet paper rolls at your disposal. Transform these unextraordinary household items into not just artful creations but also playful toys, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to your crafting endeavors.

 

Are stacks of paper bags cluttering your home? Transform your bags into a captivating holiday decor by simply gluing the bag bottoms, artfully cutting shapes with scissors, and connecting the pieces to craft exquisite snowflakes in various shapes and sizes. These stunning creations can be elegantly displayed on walls or trees, or for an added touch, suspend them from the ceiling using strings and lights. RecycleMore suggests referring to the comprehensive tutorial by Cuckoo4designs for step-by-step guidance. This project is not only quick, budget and user  friendly, but offers an end result that is nothing short of visually striking.

 

Empty egg cartons? Transform these humble containers into a winter wonderland of creativity by cutting the bottoms and giving them new life as adorable winter-themed animals like penguins, foxes, bears, rabbits, and more! Show off your imaginative flair as you craft miniature characters using these repurposed egg carton cutouts. For those eager to explore an expansive realm of egg carton crafts, RecycleMore recommends delving into the inspiring compilation 35 Impossibly Creative Projects You Can Make with Recycled Egg Cartons by DIYCrafts.com. This comprehensive resource offers tutorials on crafting intricate flowers, festive lights, decorations, and an array of crafts guaranteed to infuse holiday cheer into your home and bring joy to the whole family.

 

Creativity and resourcefulness stand paramount when engaging in art, crafting, or weaving cherished memories with loved ones. These qualities are not only integral to the realm of artistic expression but are also fundamental in shaping a more reusable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly ecosystem. Consider the possibilities within your household items—what imaginative wonders can be crafted from the seemingly ordinary? As we embark on this festive season, may the spirit of creativity and resourcefulness illuminate our path to joyful and eco-conscious celebrations.

 

Happy Holidays!

RecycleMore Hosts First Ever Do-It-Yourself Repair Workshop for Residents of West Contra Costa County

On Saturday, December 2, 2023, RecycleMore hosted their first ever free Do-It-Yourself (DIY) repair workshop in partnership with the Hercules Library and Fixit Clinic. Volunteer coaches provided consultation, assessment, and guidance on how to troubleshoot for possible repair of broken and non-functioning household items for residents of West Contra Costa County.

From vacuum cleaners, electronics, small kitchen appliances, zippers, sewing machines, a lawn mower, and even an antique grandfather clock- Fixit Clinic Coaches were on the scene and ready to support! A total of 33 items were registered for repair to be given new life, and a few of them just needed a new part!

Fixit coaches assist a resident with fixing their grandfather clock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the event, 24 total reuse holiday arts and crafts items were completed from 12 young ones to keep them occupied, and for parents and passerby recycling and organics resources and program information, including kitchen food scrap pails, were available at the RecycleMore information booth. RecycleMore staff in attendance included Reka Abraham, Lisa Borreani, Webster Nguyen, and Rachel Dice.

RecycleMore’s Webster Nguyen leading a reuse arts and crafts children’s activity.

In appreciation of the support and collaboration with Hercules Library, RecycleMore is donating a collection of books to be available to residents around the topic of recycling, repair, and reuse. Look for that section available when you visit the Hercules library in 2024.

RecycleMore’s Reka Abraham and Rachel Dice welcoming event registrants at the check in table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RecycleMore would like to thank the 30 registered attendees who came out, in addition to those that just stopped by to visit (including Hercules City Council Vice Mayor and RecycleMore Board Member, Dan Romero), the nine (9) Fixit Clinic Coaches, Fixit Clinic Founder Peter Mui, and the Hercules Library staff (including Allison Peters, Katy Buder, and Justine Rea), for this successful and popular event.

Events like these help the community to reuse and keep items out of the landfill and RecycleMore is looking forward to hosting more in the future!

 

RecycleMore, Hercules Library, and Fixit Clinic staff pose with past Hercules Mayor and current RecycleMore board member, Dan Romero.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Note:  Photos courtesy of Peter Mui, Lisa Borreani, Reka Abraham, and Alison Peters. Those in the photos have given consent verbally and by attending the event.

Calling Local Artists Looking for a Unique Residency Program – Application Deadline December 15, 2023

The City of El Cerrito is inviting all artists in Contra Costa or Alameda County to apply for The EL Cerrito Creative ReUse (“ECCRU”) Artist Residency, a nine-month program taking place at the El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Resource Center (“RERC” or “Center”).

FLYER – CLICK HERE

The purpose of this program is to support local artists who work with recycled materials, and to encourage environmental stewardship – specifically resource conservation, recycling, and upcycling – in the community through art that inspires people to think about sustainability and consumption.

The El Cerrito Creative ReUse (“ECCRU”) Artist Residency provides the artist with the following: a stipend, access to certain materials at the RERC for use in artistic projects, an on-site storage bin for materials, and support for an exhibition at the end of the residency. Artwork will be created in the artist’s own workspace, which is not provided. We encourage artists working in all mediums to apply, including but not limited to, painters, textile artists, musicians, performers, photographers, printmakers, those working in film and video, and conceptual and installation artists.

The ECCRU Program was approved by the El Cerrito Arts and Culture Commission (“ACC”) in 2015. The Artist selected for this term will be the fourth ECCRU Artist in the City’s history. The Program is funded by the Art in Public Places Program, established with the passage of the City’s Public Places Ordinance (Section 13.50 ECMC).


View the most recent El Cerrito Creative ReUse Artist in Residence, Steve Zwetsch, and some of his work:

 


 

The City of El Cerrito requires all submissions to be provided online. For information about the program, eligibility, and to apply for the position:

CLICK HERE

Proposals are due by 4:00p.m. on Friday, December 15, 2023.

 

All questions regarding this Call for Artists may be directed to El Cerrito Staff Liaison Alexandra Orologas, at (510) 215-4302 or Email: [email protected].

Aseptic Packaging: Why Items like Milk Cartons Are Difficult to Recycle

Aseptic carton packaging is a well-accepted technique for the preservation of liquid and particulate foods and has revolutionized the shelf life and shipping efficiencies. While this type of packaging offers many advantages for the consumer and the manufacturer, it presents challenges for recycling.

Aseptic Carton Packaging Benefits

When looking at NPR’s article, In The Recycling World, Why Are Some Cartons Such A Problem?, we see that there are a number of environmental benefits to aseptic cartons. Due to its ability to preserve food for longer, its simple shape allows is for higher volumes of transport and capacity to preserve without refrigeration (until opened), and is lightweight; aseptic packaging is a powerhouse when it comes to modern advancements in food packaging.

“Lightweight packaging requires less energy to ship than heavier material (less carbon footprint). The packaging versus product ratio — seemingly the packaging industry’s analog of dress measurements — is only 7 percent packaging to 93 percent product by weight. In comparison, a steel can’s ratio is 13 percent packaging to 87 percent product.”
-NPR

Aseptic Carton Packaging and its Relation to Recycling

While many envision the classic house shaped milk carton as the poster child for recycling; creation of the packaging complicates the relationship between well-known recyclable materials and trash materials. Because of the multiple layers of the several types of materials (i.e: paper, plastic, and aluminum foil) bound with adhesive, it makes these products difficult to recycle. Many recycling service providers do not have the capacity or the technology to properly sort these materials, or the markets to sell them, which limits the recycling options. For facilities that do accept these types of cartons to be recycled, they will be separated by a certain process called hydropulping at the recycling facility. This process separates the paper layer from the aluminum foil and the outer plastic layers and is then recycled and used for other purposes.

Source: In Love with All Things Tetra Pak – all things GUD!

Hydropulping is the state-of-the-art process to separate paperboard from LPB multilayers, reducing the cellulose content to less than 5% (Georgiopoulou et al., 2021; Zawadiak, 2017)

Types of Aseptic Cartons

Aseptic packaging comes in two main types of cartons: Shelf-stable and refrigerated cartons.

As the name suggests, self-stable cartons do not require refrigeration until the product is opened whereas refrigerated cartons are meant to always be stored within the fridge unless in use.

These products generally come within two distinct shapes: rectangular and gable topped (the roofed rectangle, triangular topped cartons).

 

 

 

Rectangular Packaging Source: About Cartons (recyclecartons.ca)    

 

 

 

Gable Topped Packaging Source: About Cartons (recyclecartons.ca)

According to the Carton Council’s findings on aseptic packaging, about 74% paper, 22% polyethylene, and 4% aluminum, go into shelf stable packaging compared to its refrigerated counterpart; being made of 80% paper and 20% pol

How to Spot Aseptic Packaging:

Generally, the look of aseptic packaging has a smooth and glossy exterior with a shiny metallic lining on the inside. According to the askUSDA website, various juices, vegetable products, soups, tofu, wines, liquid eggs, whipping cream, and teas also use aseptic packaging. These materials are often rectangular in shape and are also referred to as Tetra Pak Packaging, which has the following logo on the bottom of their cartons:

   

 

 

Recycle or Not to Recycle?

The more informed you are about what the materials are made of can help to determine what goes where. Due to the inconsistent nature of what can and cannot be recycled, it is important to understand your local recycling/disposal guidelines.

For residents of West Contra Costa County be sure to:

  • Identify what is aseptic packaging; and
  • Depending on where you reside*, this type of item will be accepted in recycling or will need to be placed in the trash.

* For residents in the rest of West Contra Costa County (customers of Republic Services), place these types of items in your curbside trash bin. For residents of El Cerrito, these items are accepted in your curbside recycling containers, preferably rinsed and dried. Cartons are recommended not to be flattened to ensure that the sorting machines are able to properly sort the materials. Sorting facilities have machinery that can register three-dimensional shapes that increases its chances of being sorted properly.

 

For more information and to determine these items and other items of what goes where, refer to the RecycleMore Online Recycling/Disposal Guidehttps://recyclemore.com/guide/

 

From Garbage to Guitars: An interview with El Cerrito Creative ReUse Artist Residency Awardee Steve Zwetsch

Finding new life in unwanted goods

Carrying two guitars in hand (made of upcycled cigar boxes), a small amp, a collection of guitar slides, while wearing a brimmed hat with an assortment of handmade jewelry, Steve Zwetsch puts style in sustainability.

Originally from the East Coast, Steve is now rooted in the Bay Area where in August 2022, was awarded the El Cerrito Creative Reuse (ECCRU) Artist Residency for his collaborative project, Cigar Box Nation, where he creates playable Guitars made from repurposed, upcycled, and found objects.

Further than just creating these guitars, Steve connects with local artists to have them contribute to the process. It is here where you see the amazing intersections of his work, from oil paintings, collage, photography, spray painting, and so much more. All these collaborations and interdisciplinary mediums go into each guitar.

“It’s really magical to find something that’s really cool to add onto an instrument. It’s just a matter of opening up your eyes, looking around and seeing what can be repurposed into something else”.

Seve Zwetsch 

An artform historically established using recycled items

From bed pans, crutches, pool ball racks, and highway signs, each guitar is a unique, creative work of art that has a history and shows the relationship between consumers and the well-used items they no longer need. Steve’s work not only gives new life to these products, but shows us that art, music, and creativity can come from all places, even the dump!

Steve explains that a majority of his influence comes from the music of the rural south, where individuals who could not afford manufactured instruments would create amazing songs and music on instruments made with materials much cruder than the ones Steve is working with.

“In some cases it was a coffee can with a stick running through it and a couple of strings on it. Or they would even hammer a couple of nails to the side of the house and then put a string or a wire through it and bang it with a knife or a bottleneck, and this is how they played music.”

-Steve Zwetsch

An artistic advocate to one of human civilizations longest struggles

The messaging and hope from Steve’s work is one that calls out to reconsider what is waste, and recontextualizes what can be used in new and different ways to keep things out of the landfill. Whether it’s upcycling, swapping, donating, or trading, we can all work together to find new uses in old items.

“We need to move away from being such a throwaway society. We only have so much space and we are running out quickly. And you can have a lot of fun making upcycled things.”

-Steve Zwetsch 

To learn more about Steve Zwetsch, his work, and Cigar Box Kitchen, you can visit his website or his Instagram page @CigarBoxKitchen. You can also find his Channel 7 News Segment, Art of imperfection here.

Steve’s work will be held at the El Cerrito City Hall Gallery Space until December of 2023.

 

View the playable upcycled guitars in action, CLICK HERE, or select the video below:

 

 

Photos and video courtesy of Webster Ngoc Nguyen of RecycleMore.

Food Waste for Compost, Trash, or Garbage Disposal: Which Is Greener?

Composting at home is the most eco-friendly way to get rid of food scraps. Using an at home composting method such as a backyard composter or worm bin saves the natural resources usage required to transport and process the food scraps collected in municipal programs and allows for the householder to benefit from the compost created. This is the preferred option for food scrap disposal. But if you simply don’t have the space or time to maintain a household backyard compost bin, you may be wondering what the next best way is — the trash can or your kitchen sink’s garbage disposal, or something else? While it is convenient to put your food scraps down the sink or toss them in the trash; here are some alternatives that can help you be the best advocate for the environment and possible impacts for these options.

Food Scraps in the Trash – It Goes to the Landfill

Your food that is placed in the trash gets picked up by the garbage collection trucks, and it gets taken to the landfills. Once at the landfill, it starts to decompose and rot, and then releases methane gas. Landfills by law capture methane, and either burn it off or clean it to sell back to the energy grid, however some methane escapes. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which is harmful to human and animal health and the environment.

Food Scraps in the Sink – It Goes into the Waterways

It can be easy to wash your leftovers from dinner down the drain through an in-sink garbage disposal, however it takes a considerable amount of water (approximately one gallon per person per day)  and energy to filter out food waste when it reaches a water treatment facility. Clean water is valuable, and the process wastes a lot of our precious resources. Once these food scraps are separated, they are generally transported to the same place as they would in the garbage: the landfill.

Food Scraps in the Food Scrap Pail/Organics Bin and Collected at Curbside

A simple option (and second best to composting at home) is to have a food scrap collection pail right in your kitchen to conveniently collect the scraps and then place the contents into the larger green/organics cart provided by your garbage collection company for curbside pickup. You may use any type of container that will fit in your preferred space to make it easy for you to collect your food scraps and empty the contents into the green cart outside. RecycleMore offers small Food Scrap Collection Pails (at no cost) to residents of West Contra Costa County. To learn more about this program and see where you can obtain a Food Scrap Collection Pail, CLICK HERE.

The contents of the green/organics bin are collected on regularly scheduled curbside collection days and brought to the compost facility, where these foods scraps are turned into compost. Once the compost is ready, free compost is available to residents of West Contra Costa County. To learn more about this program and see when and where you can obtain the compost, CLICK HERE.

Having a kitchen food scrap pail is a great alternative to throwing away your scraps into the trash or drain, as it allows you to separate your waste effectively and intentionally.

What Else Can You Do? Reduce Your Food Waste

There’s something you can do in addition to choosing how to discard unwanted food: minimizing the amount of food waste you create in the first place can result in huge positive impacts on your planet and wallet! If you find yourself scraping a lot of food off plates, serve smaller portions. Consider making a meal plan each week to help you buy only the food you need and use it before it spoils. Freeze leftovers and aging produce so they won’t go to waste and challenge yourself to use them creatively, into new recipes. Regrow roots or veggies allow for produce to be reused.

These are just some resourceful ways to cut your food waste down. Here are 10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste, from RecycleMore, CLICK HERE.

 

To learn more about what to do with food waste, the curbside collection organics programs, as well as composting at home ideas, CLICK HERE

10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

 

With SB 1383 (that took effect on January 1, 2022) and the cost of food increasing (approximately 5.9 percent in 2023), food waste has become a topic of concern. Most people don’t realize how much food they throw away every day — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce to parts of fruits and vegetables that could be eaten or repurposed. The average family of four spends $1,500 each year on food that ends up uneaten. Here are some impactful ways to reduce food waste at home. By adopting at least one or two of these solutions, they can become a habit, making it easier to use more food waste reducing strategies in the future.

  1. Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Before heading to the grocery store, make a meal plan of the recipes that you would like to make for that week. Think of how you can extend the meal you plan on cooking and expanding to the next night or two.

  1. Check Your Pantry/Freezer

Check what you have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before you head out to the grocery store. See what you can use as an alternative ingredient instead of buying something new. Use up those items first.

  1. Create a Shopping List

Before going to the store, make a list of the items that you are going to shop for and stick to it. Going to the grocery store unprepared can result in you buying the same thing that you already have at home.

  1. Shop the Weekly Grocery Ads

Consider looking through what is on sale for the week at your designated grocery store and shop for those items. Sign up for club offers and look for coupons. This will help you not overspend.

  1. Get Creative with Leftovers/Designate Leftovers Night

With leftovers, you don’t have to start from scratch, and it will make it an easy meal. Not only can it save a night off cooking but can be more economical. Or designate a theme night to clean out what is in the fridge and invite your friends over.

  1. Serve Smaller Portions

If you feel that you are cooking a lot and it is not being consumed or used, consider not making as much food as you normally do. Make your portions smaller. By serving smaller portions, it can help reduce food waste, but it can also help your health and waistline, if that is a concern.

  1. Use Food Scraps for Soups, Stocks, and Jams, as well as Re-grow Them

Many ends or not so pretty fruits and veggies can be used for soup stock or cooked down a yummy jam. Think about extending the life of the food scrap and creating something else with it. You can even save roots and veggies and regrow them.

  1. Keep Organized

Keep your refrigerator and your pantry organized, so you can easily find out what you have and what you can use. It might make sense to label items with dates clearly marked, so you identify what needs to be used first. A suggestion is to put those items in front or on top.

  1. Freeze Items

If you cannot use items in a timely matter, consider utilizing your freezer. Freeze items and label them clearly with the contents and date, so you know what it is.

  1. Store Items Properly

Make sure you know how to store items properly to extend the life of your food item. Certain locations and bins in the refrigerator, or airtight containers, can offer a longer shelf life. Determine what can be left on the counter/pantry, what goes into the refrigerator, and what should go in the freezer.

 

Consider Composting

When you do have food waste, consider at home composting. Learn more about backyard composting, CLICK HERE.

As an alternate solution, you can always place your items in the green/organics bin for your weekly curbside garbage collection.

Food scrap pails are also available to residents of West Contra Costa County for your kitchen for convenient sorting of food scraps for composting or to place contents into the green/organics bin. For more information, CLICK HERE.

 

Empower Yourself

Take control. Take action. Preventing food from going to waste is one of the easiest and most powerful actions you can take to save money and lower your climate change footprint, by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and conserving natural resources. (Source: EPA.gov)

 

 

RESOURCES:

https://www.epa.gov/recycle/preventing-wasted-food-home#toolkit

https://stopfoodwaste.org/resources

https://stopfoodwaste.org/resource/fruit-veggie-storage-guide

 

Disturbing Geology Findings Shows Plastic Rock Formations

Rocks Made of Melted Plastic Waste Found on Remote Island. “Plastic rocks” found on Trindade Island in the State of Espirito Santo is seen at the laboratory of the Federal University of Parana, in Curitiba, State of Parana, Brazil. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer

 

Recent studies discover the latest evidence that plastic pollution is a global problem.

In September 2022, Marine Pollution Bulletin released an article, “Plastic debris forms: Rock analogues emerging from marine pollution” about plastistones (rocks fused with melted plastic) discovered on the remote volcanic Trindade Island, off the coast of Brazil. Trindade Island is an important conservation spot for the endangered green sea turtle. The Brazilian Navy maintains a base on the island to protect the turtles, and are the only human inhabitants.

Plastistones are described as an analogue to igneous rock (rocks formed by the cooling of magma) that are made from plastic waste. These plastic rocks are found along the beach and form as plastic debris washed ashore breaks down and mixes with the island’s volcanic rock.

Plastistones, Plastiglomerates, and Pyroplastics?

This occurrence of plastistones is one of many sightings of “plastic geology” that have occurred in recent years. USA Today’s article, ‘‘Terrifying’ plastic rock finding: Pollution is embedded in this Brazilian island’s geology’ reports of plastiglomerates, an amalgamation of “rock, sand, and debris fused together by melted plastic” having been reported in Hawaii as early as 2014, as well as pyroplastics, pebble like rocks formed out of burnt plastics on the coast of England in 2019.

In September 2022, lead author of the Marine Pollution Bulletin, Fernanda Avelar Santos, named this new occurrence of plastic waste merging with the ecosystem as a possible contaminant and hazard to any living organism. She contributes a considerable amount of the plastics found in plastistones to waste coming from fishing nets. “The (nets) are dragged by the marine currents and accumulate on the beach. When the temperature rises, this plastic melts and becomes embedded with the beach’s natural material.”

“This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology,” Santos

The Deepest Depths

Linking Santos’ findings to The Guardian’s 2017 article, “‘Extraordinary’ levels of pollutants found in 10 kilometers (about 6.21 miles) deep Mariana trench,’” where one of the most remote and untouched places on our planet has been discovered to be contaminated by human waste and toxic chemicals; we can see that the waste created by humans have considerable impacts to the larger world around us.

A container of a tin from a food product rests at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep in the Mariana Trench. Photograph: Noaa Office of Ocean Exploration.

 

An expedition conducted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2022 also found various manmade items on the slopes leading to the Sirena Deep, part of the Mariana Trench, and the nearby Enigma Seamount. They included tin containers, beer bottles and several plastics bags.

A Unified Effort

While it may feel as if we are entrenched in a hopeless battle against environmental injustice, it is essential that we are aware and critical of why reducing single use purchases, proper recycling and waste management are necessary to protect our planet and its inhabitants.

Whether it is reducing your usage of waste producing products like single use plastics, recycling your items properly, or advocating for institutional accountability and legislature, the work of undoing the impacts of human waste takes a global effort.