Recycling Changes Everything

The Compost Club kicks off our K-6 school program with a presentation that requires audience participation. Each student is presented with leftovers from a mock lunch – the leftover food, the plastic baggies, the lunch sack, etc. Then the fun begins.

Students learn the simple fact that recycling and composting begins when we have the proper receptacle to put them in,  accuracy improves when we know what is recyclable and compostable, and participation increases when we feel motivated to do our part.

This pie chart shows where “trash” goes when the only option is a trash can. Grey represents “trash”, and lavender represents re-use. On average, each person produces about 3 lbs. of “trash” each day. With a population of 477,000 people in Sonoma County, even with recycling and composting statistics set aside, about 716 tons of waste head to the landfill daily.

Look what could happen to the same amount of trash when both recycling and composting receptacles are available. The majority each person’s 3lbs. of daily trash can be recycled, composted, or better yet, rethought. Students notice that reusable lunch bags and containers produce no trash at all. In Sonoma County, about 358 tons of organic/compostable waste goes to the landfill daily.

The daily act of recycling and composting adds up, and The Compost Club has spurred that action. Thanks to students around the county, placing a half-eaten apple a day in the compost instead of the trash, the Compost Club has now diverted 100 tons of food scraps from the landfill. And better yet, we’ve motivated some schools to sell their compost as a school fundraiser.

One last thought to consider- the 358 tons of organic waste that heads to the landfill each day could instead generate 218,000 yards of compost in one year.  That amount of compost is enough to supply each household in the county with 1.5 yards of compost annually. If that compost were sold bulk in the marketplace, it would generate $ 6.5 million dollars to our local economy.  The US EPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program points to that organic waste in the landfill and has declared it the single most influential human caused source of methane production. When we remove organics from the landfill, we reduce greenhouse emission and we generate income. When we remove organics from our trash can at home, we no longer need the same sized trash can, and we save on our waste hauling fees. Recycling does change the outcome, when we participate in the process.

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