September 06 2013

The Forgotten 25%: Composting to Implement Zero-Waste in the Twin Cities

About five months ago, when I decided to start a composting bin in my apartment, a skeptical friend asked what the difference was between the material going to a landfill and it simply decomposing. At the time, I had no answer that seemed to satisfy. However, now, given the chance to complete further research, it appears that composting has a much greater environmental influence than simply the amount of landfill we create.

According to the 2009 Eureka Recycling Report, solid waste material in Minnesota contains 53% recyclable material and 25% compostable material. For a state that discards 3.5 million tons as waste, that is 875,000 tons that could be composted each year! The two crucial reasons to strive to reduce this waste through compost in Minnesota is the potential to create nutrient rich soil to replace chemical fertilizers and the ability to greatly reduce global warming emissions.

Common waste disposal system, Minneapolis

Being that Minnesota ranks as the sixth top state to provide agriculture in the United States, the condition of the state’s soil is of great importance. According to Eureka Recycling, U.S soil is eroding at a rate seventeen times that of its re-growth. By implementing greater usage of composting, we can create healthy soil that retains higher levels of water and carbon dioxide, reduces pesticides and eliminates chemical fertilizers, which are known to hold 2.5 gallons of oil per forty-pound bag.

In addition to soil enhancement, composting is also crucial in reducing greenhouse gases. When food scraps breakdown in landfills they create methane – which currently contributes to 3% of greenhouse gases. If left in landfills that do not attempt to convert methane into energy, over the course of twenty years, this methane will become twenty times more powerful.

To combat these issues, Minnesota has aligned their goals with the Urban Environmental Accords, which aims at zero waste by 2040. To accomplish this goal civilians must engineer our society to:

• Create manufacturing-distribution systems that allow for reuse-recycling-composition;
• Be conscious of the food items we purchase;
• Set up commercial composting systems that allow for items such as dairy and meat which cannot be composted at home; and
• Implement city initiatives that encourage composting (Such as the Minneapolis and St. Paul Yard Waste and Composting Sites that allow for compost disposal, free of charge).

Compost at the University of Minnesota cafeteria

What other ways does composting create healthy and resilient communities? What can Twin Cities’ residents do to increase the popularity of composting?

Credits: Images by Abbey Seitz. Data linked to sources.

Abbey Seitz

Abbey Seitz is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Design of Art in Architecture and minor in Sustainability Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Growing up in a small suburb of St Paul, Minnesota, she knew no different than cold snowy winters filled with snowball fights and summers spent swimming in one of Minnesota’s many lakes. It was there that she gained an interest for the urban environment. This interest brought her to study in Chicago, Honolulu, and now Minneapolis, where she has honed her studies; how we can design and repair our cities to be environmentally sustainable and livable. Specifically in Minneapolis, she is intrigued in investigating how livable communities can be created through complete streets, public transportation, and urban agriculture.

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This entry was posted on Friday, September 6th, 2013 at 9:05 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Energy, Environment, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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