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Why Separate Food Scraps From Your Trash?

Learn how composting can help reduce landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while restoring soil

Food scraps and yard waste (branches, leaves, grass and brush) should be managed separately from trash.  Your food scraps can be collected in any container (buy a food scrap bucket, reuse a large yogurt container or keep a plastic bag in the freezer).  Your collection method will depend on the quantity of food scraps that you generate, how often you want to empty and wash your container, and how you compost.  Keeping organics out of landfills will have a big impact on you and the environment:

  • Without food scraps you will reduce your trash, and it will be cleaner and less smelly;
  • Generating less trash conserves landfill space and reduces air and ash pollution from incineration;
  • As food waste decomposes slowly underground in a landfill (without oxygen), methane (CH4) is produced, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) within the first two decades after its release (Environmental Defense Fund);
  • Food that is produced but not eaten contributes to 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, therefore reducing food waste is one of the single most impactful actions for altering the effects of climate change (according to Drawdown);
  • Food scraps contain valuable nutrients that are good for the soil and can be used to enrich gardens, farms and landscaping.

Methods of Composting Organics (food scraps and yard debris):

Residential backyard composting *

* For information on creating and maintaining residential composting, refer to the many websites available to guide you.  Among others:

Other residential composting

    • Private residential or commercial curbside pickup
    • Drop off at a designated Farm (Pitney Meadows Community Farm in Saratoga Springs accepts residential food scraps)
    • Community transfer station collection (where available)
    • Organize a booth at a local Farmers Market (with directed guidelines and a plan to manage the compost

Municipal composting (locally a composting facility is being discussed)

    • Leaves, clippings, tree branches
    • Food scraps (for large generators)

State Laws to Reduce Trash and Green House Gas Emissions by Composting

  • New York State passed Food Donation and Food Scrap Recycling Law in Dec 2019 to be effective January 1, 2022 for large generators (2 tons/week).  Requirements include donating excess edible food and recycling all remaining food scraps if within 25 miles of an organics recycler (composting facility).
  • Vermont DEC state law will require mandatory composting per the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148) Food Scrap Ban (banning food scraps as a component of trash) for businesses, residents and haulers (everyone) beginning July 1, 2020.  Vermont is the first state to enact such a law.
  • Massachusetts banned the disposal of one ton or more per week commercial organic wastes by businesses and institutions effective October 1, 2014.  The MassDEP Commercial Food Materials Disposal Ban is an initiative for diverting at least 35 percent of all food waste from disposal statewide by 2020, including creating hundreds of well-paying jobs; increasing the Gross State Product; and generating state and local tax revenue.
  • Connecticut Organics Recycling Mandate became the first state to require food scraps from large-scale entities to be recycled.  The mandate requires that a commercial food wholesaler or distributor, industrial food manufacturer or processor, supermarket, resort or conference center must reduce food waste by donating servable food to shelters and food pantries; using an on-site system to compost food scraps; or working with haulers to send food scraps to a composting facility or to be used for animal feed.

Composting Tip:   In your composter, cover every bucket of food scraps (‘greens’) with three buckets of dried yard debris such as leaves, dry grass, sawdust or wood chips (‘browns’).  Covering food scraps with browns reduces odors and creates a good carbon to nitrogen ratio for soil bacteria and other decomposers to break down the pile.  Mature compost will look and smell like dark brown soil.