No to trash: compost

Whoops! In my previous post I set out to write an upbeat report of our most recent accomplishments saving the planet. Seems like I lost the thread there…

We need something on the other side of the ledger!

US trash

  • The average American generates 4.6 pounds of solid trash per day, for a grand total of 1,460 pounds per year, that’s approximately 230 million tons of “trash”. Less than one-quarter of it is recycled; the rest is incinerated or buried in landfills. We could reuse or recycle more than 70 percent of the landfilled waste. (
  • Americans represent roughly 5% of the world’s population, but generate 40% of its waste. (US Environmental Protection Agency Factsheet) 
  • Really want the dirt on dirt? Read the “Executive Summary: Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2005 Facts and Figures” here.

Oh, but wait: the other side of the ledger, that’s the positive side.

Reduce-reuse-recycle and… compost

Our household (of 3). does not generate 4.6 pounds of trash. We reduce-reuse-recycle all our paper, cardboard, containers (plastic, glass, cartons, cans) and plastic bags.

That leaves us with:

  • plastic wrappers, styrofoam, and the like (I plan to do a Trash Audit soon),
  • and, unfortunately, all that good organic, living, nutritious matter, like potato peels, egg shells, and apple cores.

It breaks my heart to throw all those goodies into that plastic trash bag with all the toxic trash (if it is not even recyclabe…). From there on it goes to the incinerator or the landfill. In both cases these valuable nutritients are lost. In the landfill, mixed up with the plastics (and the diapers, etc.), it can take years to decades to decompose. Even then it doesn’t “return to the earth”, or at least to any kind of earth healthy enough to benefit from it.

If we put it into a composter, it will decompose in a few weeks to a few months. Then we can use it as fertilizer in our condo building’s little courtyard garden.

That’s  the plan. I’m entering our request for the composting bin today, and am putting together a little pamphlet for the residents of our condo who have reservations about smell, flies and rodents.

The other side of the ledger

It’s tough to tell, and I haven’t found much helpful information on the net, but it seems that, if you put a pound of kitchen scraps (80% of which is water) into the composter, you get about a quarter of compost. Is that right?

Let me do some weighing and calculating, and I’ll present you with the positive side of the ledger in a few months.

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s great to see a new blog and I’ve enjoyed reading your entries. I’m a mom (twice over) and I worry about my kids’ future as well. We’re also composting, by the way, it works out! We have a garden, though, which makes it easier. I’ll be visiting more, curious about what this will turn into.
    Thanks! Shari

  2. I find it discouraging that here in my county they don’t recycle any plastics that aren’t “bottles” defined as having necks that are narrower than the bottom. I am used to recycling yogurt containers and tofu tubs and things like that. I’d like to see my waste reduced too.

    We have finally started composting too.

  3. Hi Shari and Angelina,
    Welcome! Composting seems to be taking off. We are still working things oout with our condo residents and trustees. I think we’ll make it and will keep you informed.

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