Food Waste & Climate Change: Seattle Cracks Down On Composting | IN Close


EVERY SUNDAY, BRIAN AND SARAH
MILLS CHOP ENOUGH VEGGIES TO MAKE A WEEK’S WORTH OF SALAD
LUNCHES. >>THERE’S NO QUESTION.
WHAT WILL I HAVE FOR LUNCH ON THURSDAY?
I KNOW I AM HAVING A SALAD FOR LUNCH ON THURSDAY.
IT WILL BE THE EXACT SAME SALAD I HAD LAST THURSDAY AND THE
THURSDAY BEFORE THAT.>>SALADS HELP THE FAMILY WATCH
WHAT THEY EAT. THEY ALSO HELP THEM CUT BACK ON
THE FOOD THEY BRING HOME, BUT DON’T EAT.
>>BY THINKING AHEAD ABOUT OUR FOOD PREP IT MAKES IT SO THAT WE
HAVE LESS FOOD WASTE OVERALL. >>BY CAREFULLY PLANNING MEALS,
THE FAMILY AVOIDS OVERSPENDING ON FOOD THAT ROTS BEFORE THEY
GET A CHANCE TO EAT IT. BUT EVEN THE BEST-LAID PLANS
DON’T ALWAYS WORK OUT. >>WE HAVE TWO KIDS.
THEY SOMETIMES EAT WHAT WE PUT ON THEIR PLATE
>>NOT ALWAYS.>>YEAH.
>>AFTER DINNER, THE SCRAPS PILE UP IN A TUPPERWARE BIN ON THE
COUNTER.>>YOU SEE IT IN THE CONTAINER
AND YOU SEE HOW MUCH YOU’RE WASTING.
KIND OF GROSS.>>FOR US IN A DIFFERENT WAY.
>>YEAH. >>THAN YUCKY.
IT’S GROSS AS IN IT’S GROSSLY WASTEFUL.
>>ABOUT 40% OF FOOD PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES IS WASTED.
IN JUST ONE DAY, AMERICANS THROW AWAY ENOUGH FOOD TO FEED THE
ENTIRE SEATTLE METRO AREA FOR TWO WEEKS.
OF COURSE, AVOIDING FOOD WASTE ENTIRELY ISN’T POSSIBLE.
SOME PARTS OF FOOD JUST AREN’T EDIBLE.
BUT BECAUSE THE MILLS LIVE IN A SEATTLE SUBURB, THEIR FOOD WASTE
DOESN’T HAVE TO BE TOSSED IN THE GARBAGE.
THEIR KIDS ALREADY KNOW WHERE THE FOOD SCRAPS GO.
>>THE YARD WASTE.>>SEATTLE IS ONE OF THE FEW
MAJOR U.S. CITIES ALONG WITH PORTLAND AND SAN FRANCISCO TO
HAVE CURBSIDE COMPOSTING. BUT THE PROGRAM HASN’T SOLVED
THE PROBLEM. SPEND THE MORNING COLLECTING
SEATTLE’S TRASH AND YOU’LL SEE FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD.
AT THE SOUTH SEATTLE DUMP, DEETER ECKLES IS LEADING A CREW
RANDOMIZING SAMPLES OF THE CITY’S GARBAGE.
THE TEAM HAND SORTS EVERYTHING INTO MORE THAN A HUNDRED
DIFFERENT CATEGORIES.>>THIS LOOKS LIKE IT HAS MORE
FOOD IN IT. >>MEASURING EXACTLY WHAT PEOPLE
ARE THROWING OUT PAINTS A PICTURE OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
RECYCLED OR COMPOSTED. THE TEAM HAS DONE SIMILAR
STUDIES IN MOST MAJOR U.S. CITIES, AND THEY FOUND THAT
SEATTLE IS AT THE FOREFRONT, DIVERTING TEN TIMES THE FOOD
WASTE OF THE REST OF THE COUNTRY.
BUT THERE’S ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.
>>THERE ARE STILL LOTS OF THINGS GOING IN THE GARBAGE CAN
THAT SHOULDN’T BE GOING IN THERE. FOOD. FOOD IS REALLY THE BIG ONE THAT
SHOULDN’T — SHOULDN’T BE IN YOUR GARBAGE CAN.
>>EVEN THOUGH SEATTLE HAS BEEN COLLECTING FOOD SCRAPS FOR
NEARLY A DECADE, MANY RESIDENTS CONTINUE TO THROW FOOD IN THE
TRASH SO MUCH SO THAT BY WEIGHT, FOOD STILL MAKES UP ABOUT 20%
THE GARBAGE. >>WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT IN A
PILE, IT IS A PRETTY SMALL PIECE OF THE PILE.
BY WEIGHT BY FAR THE LARGEST SINGLE PIECE OF GARBAGE IS FOOD.
>>THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ESTIMATES THAT NATIONWIDE
36 MILLION TONS OF FOOD ARE THROWN AWAY EACH YEAR.
THAT’S THE EQUIVALENT OF 7,000 DUMP TRUCKS’ WORTH OF FOOD EVERY SINGLE DAY. ONLY ABOUT 5% OF THAT GETS
DIVERTED FROM THE LANDFILL AND TURNED INTO COMPOST.
FOOD WASTE TAKES UP VALUABLE SPACE IN LANDFILLS.
AND ONCE IT’S THERE, IT RELEASES METHANE, A GREENHOUSE GAS THAT’S
25 TIMES MORE POTENT THAN CARBON DIOXIDE.
ONE STUDY ESTIMATES THAT REMOVING FOOD WASTE FROM THE
LANDFILLS WOULD BE LIKE TAKING ONE OUT OF EVERY FIVE CARS OFF
THE ROAD. STEPHAN BANCHERO IS THE CEO OF
CEDAR GROVE COMPOSTING IN WESTERN WASHINGTON, ONE OF THE
LARGEST OPERATIONS OF ITS KIND IN THE COUNTRY.
>>WE’RE HANDLING OVER 75,000 TONS OF FOOD WASTE A
YEAR, ESCALATING EACH YEAR. PULLING THAT DIRECTLY OUT OF THE
LANDFILL AND MAKING SOIL OUT OF IT.
>>IN THE UNITED STATES, TOPSOIL IS DEPLETED TEN TIMES FASTER
THAN IT’S REPLACED. IT TAKES HUNDREDS OF YEARS TO
CREATE ONE INCH OF TOPSOIL NATURALLY.
AT CEDAR GROVE IT TAKES LESS THAN TWO MONTHS TO CONVERT A
HEAP OF ORGANIC WASTE INTO COMPOST.
>>THERE IS ALWAYS A NEED FOR THE SOIL.
FOOD WASTE COMPOSTING, THE INTENT IS TO MAKE SOIL THAT CAN
BE REUSED.>>EACH DAY, ABOUT 700 TONS OF
ORGANIC WASTE IS TRUCKED IN, AND A FRACTION OF THAT, ABOUT 10 TO
15 PERCENT, IS FOOD. THE ORGANIC MATTER IS RUN
THROUGH A GRINDER AND MIXED TO DISTRIBUTE THE NUTRIENT RICH
FOOD SCRAPS AMONG THE GRASS CLIPPINGS AND WOODY DEBRIS.
IT’S THEN STORED IN PILES WHERE MICROBES SET TO WORK.
AIR MOVEMENT THROUGH THE STACKS IS CAREFULLY CONTROLLED TO SPEED
UP THE PROCESS. AS MORE FOOD SCRAPS ARRIVE AT
CEDAR GROVE, THEY ARE ALSO SEEING AN INCREASE IN FOOD
PACKAGING MATERIALS THAT DON’T BREAK DOWN.
>>THIS IS STRAIGHT PLASTIC. PIECE OF PLASTIC, IF IT GOES
THROUGH THE GRINDER, THAT PIECE OF PLASTIC IS NOW TEN SMALL
PIECES OF PLASTIC. >>THEY USE A VARIETY OF METHODS
TO SIFT OUT SMALL PIECES OF GLASS, PLASTIC AND METAL, BUT
THEY ARE ALL EXPENSIVE AND SMALL BITS STILL MAKE IT THROUGH.
>>YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU’RE GETTING IN YOUR
CONTAINER. WE DON’T WANT HALF FOOD WASTE
AND HALF PLASTIC. WE CAN’T ACCEPT PLASTIC.
>>TIM CROLL IS THE SOLID WASTE DIRECTOR FOR SEATTLE PUBLIC
UTILITIES. ON CROLL’S WATCH, THE CITY IS
RECYCLING 56% OF ITS GARBAGE. THAT’S GOOD, BUT IT’S NOT GOOD
ENOUGH TO MEET THE TARGETS SEATTLE SET FOR ITSELF BY 2016.
>>THE RATE THAT WE’VE BEEN GOING THE LAST TWO YEARS WOULD
GET US TO OUR 60% RECYCLING GOAL IN ABOUT EIGHT YEARS.
WE REALLY HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
WE CAN’T JUST SIT OUT THERE AND ROOT MORE.
>>SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL RECENTLY VOTED TO START CRACKING DOWN,
STARTING IN 2015, FOOD WASTE AND COMPOSTABLE PAPER WILL NO LONGER
BE ALLOWED TO GO IN THE GARBAGE. FAMILIES WHO BREAK THE RULES
WILL BE FINED, ONE WHOLE DOLLAR. THE FINE, CROLL SAYS, REALLY
ISN’T ABOUT THE MONEY.>>WE’RE NOT OUT THERE TO GET A
BUNCH OF MONEY ON THESE FEES, SINGLE BANANA PEEL OR APPLE CORE
IS NOT GOING TO DO IT. WE’LL PICK IT UP AND DUMP IT BUT
WE’LL LEAVE A NOTE THAT WE ARE LEVYING A $1 FEE.
>>THE RULES WILL GO INTO EFFECT IN JANUARY, BUT GARBAGE
COLLECTORS WON’T START LEVYING FINES UNTIL JULY.
YOU PROBABLY WON’T FIND THE MILLS FAMILY GETTING HIT WITH A
FINE FOR SHIRKING THEIR COMPOSTING DUTIES.
>>IT’S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT IT’S SO SIMPLE AND WHY NOT.
IS IT REALLY THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT?
OUR FIVE AND SEVEN-YEAR-OLDS DO IT.
>>IT’S NOT DIFFICULT TO PUT SOMETHING IN A BIN.
>>SO SIMPLE EVEN A CHILD COULD DO IT.

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