by Jeff Hauser – In a short time, we’ve gone from having all our trash hauled off to a landfill to having a substantial percentage of it being taken for recycling. The benefits to our environment are clear and recycling is now law here in Chicago. But what about other waste we don’t normally associate with recycling?
Well, there is bodily waste. But even this is recycled by sewage treatment plants that turn it into fertilizer for such places as city parks, golf courses, and sod farms.
The largest part of unrecycled waste are food scraps and light paper products, the sorts of items usually tossed into kitchen garbage bags. By disposing of such materials that way — particularly the meat and vegetable trimmings — we fail to return nutrients to the soil that grew the plants that fed the cow, chicken, and pig; other plants that became our vegetables; and still other plants that comprise our fruits.
It used to be that organic wastes remained more or less where people left them, available to following generations of plants, animals, and people. Now, with most biodegradables going to landfills, we must rely on chemical fertilizers to nourish our gardens and farms.
Composting is a way of getting back to nature by methodically allowing organic matter to decompose into humus (enriched soil) which can then be spread as fertilizer. Owners of single family homes can compost by layering food scraps with yard waste like grass clippings and then digging the enriched soil into their own gardens.
For apartment and condo dwellers, it’s a bit more complicated. First, they may not have that outside area to work in, and second, any compost produced won’t be used to grow their own food.
Nevertheless, a few of our Park Tower residents are in fact composting right now. Or more correctly, they are freezing food scraps and then taking them periodically to nearby locations, where they are picked up and delivered to the actual composting facilities. Which leads one to wonder: If enough residents participated, might their “compostables” be picked up here at the building?
The answer is, yes, and the websites for two organizations providing such service are listed at end of this story. Collective Resource and the Compost Club division of Urban Canopy are Chicago organizations that provide scheduled pickup services at homes, businesses, apartment and condo buildings. Compost Club is particularly interesting in that it delivers compostables to urban farms right here in the City, where it is transformed into the desired enriched soil.
Details differ, as do prices, but generally speaking pickup is most cost effective when more residents participate. Would you be interested in joining in and bringing our effort to a size where onsite pickup is feasible?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your questions, suggestions and encouragement will be shared with the small group of residents already engaged in this worthy Green initiative.
Visit www.collectiveresource.us/ and www.theurbancanopy.org/compost-club/