The Benefits Of Composting Municipal Solid Waste

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Municipal solid waste, or MSW, contains mostly food products, about 56 percent of the total amount of refuse. A significant portion of this waste is compostable and offers a new frontier in recycling. The United States produces 250 million pounds of MSW every year. There are about 150 communities in the United States that collect this material and compost it including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and San Antonio. New York City is starting a pilot program to convert portions of its MSW into compost as well. Food waste is the easiest MSW to target for large-scale municipal composting projects. If even a small fraction of all the food waste is composted, it could produce an endless supply of compost for urban and rural farms.

European countries have already demonstrated that large-scale composting is economically feasible. The Netherlands recycles 28 percent, Austria recycles 34 percent, and Spain, France, and Germany each compost about 18 percent of their MSW. On average, the European Union composts about 15 percent of its waste.

The following details the benefits of municipal composting and recycling programs in the United States.

Environmental benefits of municipal composting

Landfills produce extraordinary amounts of greenhouse gases, including methane, which is 28 to 36 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Also, landfills are typically located far away from cities, so the collection and transportation of waste further contributes to greenhouse gases. In total, the EPA estimates that landfills are the third-largest contributor of greenhouse gases in the world. Composting programs that remove food waste from the MSW would significantly reduce some of the greenhouse gases associated with landfills.

Proven recycling programs

Recycling programs are already moderately effective at sorting through MSW. In 2011, the United States recycled 87 million tons of waste. Organic materials (albeit paper) accounted for the largest share, which was 14.6 percent. Paper recycling programs have proven that municipal composting can work well. Unfortunately, food waste only accounted for 1.6 percent of recycled materials, but it is possible to increase that portion.

New York is the largest contributor of MSW. Its pilot program is steadily expanding and included over 100,000 households in 2014. The program covers schools, high-rises, and individual homes. The city spends over $85 million a year to remove food waste. Composting can offset those costs and save money for everyone.

Additionally, San Francisco demonstrated the economic viability of municipal composting in 2002 when it enacted its recycling program. Residents have three bins for trash, non-compostable recyclables, and compostable recyclables. This city set a goal of diverting 75 percent of waste from landfills by 2010. In 2011, San Francisco diverted 78 percent and is set to reach its goal of 100 percent diversion by 2020.

Municipal composting with windrow turners from SCARAB International

If you would like to know more about recycling food waste or municipal composting methods, contact SCARAB International in White Deer Texas. We provides customized compost turners to fit your unique needs. We recognize the great benefit that composting can provide to the environment and to municipalities across the world. Call us at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us by email to learn more about our compost turners and our services. We offer new, refurbished, and used compost turners, as well as leasing options.