When you cook at home, and it doesn’t involve reheating things from a box, there tends to be a lot of organic waste. Vegetarian or meat-eater, it can really accumulate. From squash skin to chicken bones, there is often something leftover that could be used for something else.
And there is.
Two years ago, the City of Apen implemented a pilot program for composting, both for private homes and commercial restaurants and businesses. Today, it’s a permanent part of the municipal waste management process. Three different companies offer curbside pick-up and now more than 150 residential units, four HOAs and seven businesses are participating.
Composting turns organic waste into rich soil through decomposition. It’s a process that can be done at home in parts of the country where people have yards and there aren’t bears. But, in Aspen the same companies that haul trash will pick up your organic matter, take it to the Pitkin County Landfill, and manage the process themselves. Then, they sell this super-soil back to the community at a relatively low rate for gardens and lawns, and the process repeats itself. (It can be done at home in Aspen too, but the wildlife factor restricts what matter can go into the compost).
I picked up my free 6.5-gallon bucket from the Environmental Health department when I moved into town. For $4 a week, I get a Wednesday pick-up from Waste Management, and the actual amount of what I put into a trash bag is now minimal.
“In your home, about 30 to 50 percent of what you throw away can be composted,” says Ashley Cantrell, an environmental health specialist for the City. For restaurants, that figure jumps to 70 to 80 percent.
Those waxed cardboard boxes that can’t be recycled? Compost. Dirty paper napkins and greasy pizza delivery boxes? Compost. That leftover bouquet from Valentine’s Day? You guessed it.
People spend a lot of time recycling, says Cantrell, and that’s a huge step, but when you add composting to the mix it actually reduces the amount of waste. Right now, the city is running a public awareness campaign about what can, and can’t, be recycled. Things like cereal boxes are ending up in the cardboard section; they can’t be recycled and it can end up contaminating the entire load. Composting offers a solution.
On the commercial side, Aspen Meadows Resort, Buttermilk’s Bumps and Cliffhouse restaurants, Whole Foods, Hearthstone House, Inn at Aspen, Limelight Hotel and Sky Hotel are all participating in the program, says Cantrell. Besides putting food waste into the compost, businesses and individuals can use biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery for events that require disposable products.
Biodegradable plastic bags, like the ones that some of the farmers’ stands use for produce at the Saturday market, make great kitchen receptacles for waste. Instead of having to haul out the compost bin every time something needs to go in it, I prefer to fill up in smaller amounts. (And it’s less stinky).
Composting may not be for everyone. But, if you like to cook at home, then you’re already aware of how much waste it can produce. This simple step can turn your trash into someone else’s treasure.
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies hosts a composting class, “Grow, Eat, Compost,” at Rock Bottom Ranch on Thursday Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. Info at www.aspennature.org