The future of recycling

According to EPA, the recycling of plastic, glass and paper has taken firm hold in the United States after years of steady growth. As indicated by the EPA, the U.S. recovered about 10% of such material in 1960, but it recovered 36% in 2012. On the other hand, composting the food and yard waste is an old idea that is just beginning to get traction in U.S. Cities. The amount of food waste that has been recycled was still below 5% in 2012, though that was up from nothing as late as 1980.

Composting is a natural process where organic matter is turned back into nutrient rich soil through bacterial decomposition. For community composting services, food scraps like carrot peels and apple peels are collected and taken to a composting building, typically a third party, contracted business. The processed stuff is then resold to farmers and gardening nurseries. Consumer to farm cycle is the great, but the high demand for compost has really pushed some farmers to growing and processing big amounts of easily biodegradable plants.

For example, San Francisco has an urban curbside compost collection program and gives bins for each property in the city to gather yard trimmings and food scraps from restaurants and homes. As is the case in many other regions, the material is brought to a recycling center and turned into organic matter that’s redistributed as fertilizer to local farms. With its current recycling programs, some neighborhoods have a recuperation rate of 90%, which is great. City of Seattle aims to increase its recycling rate from 56.2 to 70 by 2022. New guideline will require all food waste to be composted, and he hopes to see it help the city reach an objective of 60% recycling next year. New York is trying to do something smilar. It rolled out a pilot composting program this past June for 100,000 households.

Beyond basic disintegration of plant matter through composting, some recycling leaders turned to a conventional farming practice that burns organic matter to create a carbon rich matter called biochar. Once mixed into soil, biochar can increase plant growth in degraded urban soil by 40%. The basic challenge that we face in the next 25 years is to redesign our relationship to natural systems. The reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy must be drastically transformed to understand our relationship to natural systems.