Update on the City’s Residential Food Waste Pilot Program – Fall 2021
Supported by a grant from the USDA, the City of Gainesville’s Solid Waste Division has been running a pilot food waste collection and composting program at 200 homes since April 2021. This pilot program aims to determine the feasibility of operating a composting collection program, gauge the level of interest residents have in participating in alternative waste recovery programs, and enhance the available educational tools for food waste reduction in the community. The information gained from this pilot program will help to build the framework for future organics recycling programs in our community.
Beaten Path Compost, a community composter, collects the food waste weekly from the participation pilot program homes and transports it back to their facility, where it gets added to a large managed compost pile and gets mixed with other materials. Moisture (primarily from rainfall) and oxygen (from turning the pile) are introduced into the composting pile to accelerate the decomposition process. Microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and actinomycetes then get busy breaking down the complex organic compounds in the compost pile into simpler substances. As the bacteria and microorganisms decompose the materials, they release heat. This natural process of decay is called aerobic (with oxygen) decomposition, and this is how materials are converted back into usable nutrients for plants. It takes about two months at temperatures of 140 to 150 degrees before the food waste and woody waste break down enough to start curing. It is these high temperatures in the pile that are essential for the destruction of pathogenic organisms.
When the compost pile temperatures decrease, larger organisms, such as worms and other macroinvertebrates, come in to feed on the earlier inhabitants of the pile. Microorganisms, such as centipedes and soil mites, similarly help decomposition by “chomping” organic matter into smaller and smaller bits. In its final state of decomposition, the material is called “humus,” or more commonly known as compost. Beaten Path Compost generally leaves their piles to cure for 8 to 10 months to ensure the final product has a balanced pH, so it can be directly land applied and put into use by growers. The stabilized compost is then used by local gardeners and farmers to improve the physical properties of their soil and grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
We’d be remiss not to mention the contribution of the flock of chickens (and one very vocal goose) that pick through the food waste for daily nourishment and help support the ecosystem at Beaten Path’s facility. The natural fertilizer that the chickens return to the surrounding soil supports lush grasses, many flowering plants, and nearby trees. All this added vegetative growth helps sequester more carbon from our atmosphere and provides a habitat for other animals. Additionally, eggs from the chickens are used in meals of the humans and canine guardians that protect the chickens.
Community composters, like Beaten Path Compost, produce more than just high-quality compost for soil remediation, as they also create local jobs, produce a greener environment, and help to enhance food security in our community.
For more information on composting and reducing wasted food, visit CityofGainesville/Recycle or email email@example.com.
How Does Recycling Reduce Greenhouse Gases?
At first glance, recycling might not seem closely tied to global warming or climate change. However, recycling is one of the easiest, hands-on actions you and your family can take to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere.
Recycling, in large part, is about making the most out of the materials already available to us instead of constantly extracting new resources. The excavation and transportation of virgin materials from forests, oil reserves, and mines is a hugely energy-intensive activity. However, processing recycled materials requires dramatically less energy, burns fewer fossil fuels, and produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling also has the benefit of sending less trash to landfills, which reduces the opportunity for decomposition and the release of methane. Methane gas is 25 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide and is a major factor impacting climate change. Additionally, recycling, especially paper materials, reduces the clear-cutting of forests to make new paper products. Trees capture and store large amounts of carbon dioxide (the most prevalent greenhouse gas) and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Take a few moments to review what can be recycled in your orange and blue bins to maximize your recycling efforts and reduce your carbon footprint.
Discover the Gainesville Recycling Resource Guide
Enjoy Gainesville’s easy-to-use online Recycling Resource Guide and learn where all types of materials can be recycled, composted, donated, repaired, or resold locally. Just type in the name of the item, and the Recycling Resource Guide will provide you with the most up-to-date reuse and recycle options.
From Aerosol Cans to Zip Disks (and everything in between), the Recycling Resource Guide will tell you if an item is hazardous to handle, accepted curbside for recycling, or where it can be dropped off locally. By following the information provided in the Recycling Resource Guide, you’ll be helping to prevent good materials from going to the landfill and providing a second life for your items.
The Recycling Resource Guide is an informational directory to assist residents and businesses with finding local options for the sustainable management of unwanted materials. Please be sure to confirm with drop-off locations before arriving to verify site location, materials accepted, and hours of operation.
Visit zerowastegnv.com/recycle to jumpstart your journey on the roadway to zero waste!