Yard Trimmings/Food Scraps
Reducing the amount of solid waste that we dispose of is easier than you might think. Recycling organic materials, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, can significantly reduce the amount of solid waste disposed of in landfills or incinerators. Together they represent one-fourth of the municipal solid waste (MSW) we generate. Government agencies, small and large businesses, and individuals all can participate in composting and recovery programs for organic materials—as well as create their own programs.
Just the Facts
In large part, disposal of yard materials—such as grass clippings and trimmings from bushes, trees, and other yard vegetation—in landfills is generally not necessary, since backyard composting and yard trimmings collection and recovery programs have become quite popular. The composting industry has grown rapidly over the past decade, and it provides a viable alternative to traditional disposal options for yard trimmings. Composting yard trimmings saves landfill space and reduces methane production in landfills. Methane gas can contribute to global climate change.
Yard trimmings collection programs usually run on a seasonal basis, depending on the region and the time of year that vegetative growth is at its peak. For example, many communities collect grass clippings and brush from Spring to Fall, while others collect leaves from mid-October through December. In certain areas, such as the southwest United States, collection programs can operate year-round. Yard trimmings are collected through drop-off sites or curbside collection. Drop-off sites work best when residents are accustomed to delivering their household discards to landfills or transfer stations, thus avoiding the costs of a curbside collection program. For curbside collection, the municipality picks up the yard trimmings that residents have packaged and placed outside their homes. Although more expensive than drop-off programs, curbside collection typically garners higher participation and diversion rates. The higher operational costs of curbside collection programs thus can be offset by decreased disposal costs (tipping fees), increased landfill life, and potential revenue from compost sales.
Food leftovers are the single-largest component of the waste stream by weight in the United States—Americans throw away about 96 billion pounds of food each year. Food scraps include uneaten food and food preparation wastes from residences, commercial establishments like restaurants, institutional sources like school cafeterias, and industrial sources like factory lunchrooms. To improve and enhance food scraps recovery, EPA developed a hierarchy for food scraps management, which follows:
1. Recover food to feed hungry people.