In recycling heaven, every backyard has a compost pit.
Organic biodegradables such as food scraps never wind up in landfills and produce methane gas. They don’t go to the waste-to-energy incinerator where it requires an impractical amount of energy to dry them for combustion. And they don’t go down the kitchen drain to diminish the sewage plant’s capacity for treating wastewater.
Not everyone gets to heaven, though, and not everyone composts.
But for Spokane County households that subscribe to separate yard waste collection, such heavenly benefits will soon be attainable through other means.
Starting July 12, residents in the urbanized areas of the county will be able to use their yard waste containers for table scraps and even related nonfood trash such as napkins, coffee filters, teabags and pizza boxes.
If policy changes of this sort were easy they might have happened sooner. But an array of influences – economic, geographical and regulatory – bear on how aggressive recycling programs can be. In this case it took the Grant County Health District’s OK before food wastes could be accepted at the Royal City compost operation to which the city of Spokane transports yard waste.
A baby step forward, perhaps, but it results in the gains listed above and it helps reduce the 60,000 to 70,000 tons a year of solid waste the city now sends to a landfill in Goldendale because it exceeds the waste-to-energy plant’s capacity.
Visitors from larger communities with more aggressive recycling programs often comment on how little of the waste stream in Spokane is captured. But until Spokane has the same proximity to populations and markets that will buy or can use recyclable materials, our programs will fall short of those in places like Portland and King County.
But incremental improvements are possible and should be welcomed as they happen.
A private composting facility in Lincoln County is positioning itself to accept the perishables that food banks and supermarkets have to throw out. The regional solid waste program hopes by next year to have its own facility for separating recyclables, thus sparing collectors and homeowners the burden of doing it at the curb.
Those are positive developments. They produce taxpayer savings while contributing to a cleaner, greener community. A little piece of heaven.
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