Municipal composting

Municipal composting.Portland, the object of many a progressive city’s jealousy, breaks down waste effectively. Tellingly, the largest (green) bin is for compostables while the smallest (grey) bin heads to the landfill.Photo courtesy kenudigit via Flickr


More than  90 U.S. cities and communities, from Dubuque to Seattle, offer municipal food-waste collection. The programs work much like recycling programs: Compost bins are picked up on a regular basis for a small monthly fee.

Composting is even mandatory in San Francisco! The city collects more than 500 tons of food waste a day and sends it to a processing facility, which turns it into compost and sells it to local farms and backyard gardeners. The green-bin pickup and recycling keep 75 percent of San Fran’s trash out of landfills, according to the Boston Globe.

The programs and items allowed in the bin vary, but since the compost processing plants can heat waste to a higher degree to break it down, you can compost many more items!

Check your program’s list of items allowed, but you can likely add these to the list of compostables: 

  • Meat (including bones)
  • Soiled paper
  • Compostable packaging (home compost bins don’t get hot enough to break down those plastic-looking plates made from corn, for example)
  • Dairy
  • Hair (yours or your pets’)

The facilities can even break down kitty litter and feces, but it’s not commonly accepted for fear of the parasite toxoplasmosis.

How to find a municipal composting program: