Solving Cities

Is there a curbside composting boom in U.S. cities?

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Over the past three years, the number of cities that offer curbside recycling has grown to 90. Growth? Definitely. A composting boom? Maybe not, but there are some compelling statistics why there should be.

Over the past three years, the number of cities that offer curbside recycling has grown to 90. Growth? Definitely. A composting boom? Not quite. Nationwide, our recycling rate is only 33.8 percent and only 3 percent of that is from organic waste.

Still, cities are making a push to add composting to their waste management mix. Last fall, Portland became the latest city to adopt curbside composting, with San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, Colo. among the other cities with a composting program.

Over at Governing, Elizabeth Daigneau digs up some interesting statistics that might have more cities adding curbside composting.

The motivation behind these programs is simple: maxed-out landfills. Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage per year. Before San Francisco started its composting program in 1996, a city study found that more than one-third of all waste entering landfills could be composted instead. Today, between composting and recycling, the city diverts 78 percent of its waste from landfills. When Portland launched its composting program, it cut back its weekly garbage collection to every other week. Customers just weren’t producing as much trash.

There's more:

  • 1 million tons of organic waste have been collected since San Francisco started its composting program 15 years ago
  • 600 tons of compost are collected everyday in San Francisco
  • 30 percent less garbage was collected every month during Portland's pilot composting program

But it's not just a feel-good green gesture. Daigneau says that cities are actually finding it cheaper in the long run to compost because it keeps landfills from filling up as fast as they otherwise would.

Photo: glue&glitter/Flickr

Curbside Composting Added to a Major City: Is It Yours? [Governing]

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure