As reported by the local Metro newspaper, Boston could soon be joining the ranks of about 90 other progressive cities across the United States by instituting a city-wide curbside compost pick up program. According to a report from NPR, Seattle, Washington was the first city to require all households to compost food waste in April 2008, and San Francisco, California implemented a similar law in October 2009 requiring all residents, businesses, apartment complexes, and restaurants to compost food waste. Through a combined compost and recycling program, the city of San Francisco kept about 72 percent if its waste from entering landfills in 2009. The city has set an ambitious goal of being zero-waste by 2020, and while Boston might not be quite on San Francisco’s level yet, it is certainly a model to strive for.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tracks the content of municipal solid waste (MSW) that enters landfills. In 2010, the United States produced 34 million tons of food waste (about 14 percent of the total MSW), of which only about 3 percent was recovered. When food enters a landfill, it rots and produces methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas. By diverting this compostable food waste from our landfills, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use the nutrient-rich compost to improve the viability of our soils, and promote general sanitation in dumpsters and garbage facilities – especially in densely populated, urban environments like Boston.
Bootstrap Compost is currently the only privately operated compost pickup service in the Boston area, but with about 400 residential customers and 21 commercial customers, they have successfully diverted over 170,000 pounds of food scraps since the program launched in 2011 – an incredible accomplishment. Customers can have their compost picked up on a weekly basis for $8 per week, or biweekly for $18 per month. Participants can opt to have the compost returned for use in personal gardens, or have it donated to local schools and community gardens in the Boston area.
The prospect of a composting program that allows easy participation for all citizens is an exciting and encouraging step toward strengthening sustainability in Boston. The city must continue to show commitment and support for initiatives such as these in order to remain a thought leader in the realm of environmental awareness and activism.