Community Compost Program – $750
The Community Foundation was pleased to fully fund Teton Valley Community Recycling’s competitive grant to strategically and collaboratively reduce waste and increase composting locally. Teton Valley residents currently send large amounts of food and yard waste to the landfill for disposal thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions through transport and the resultant anaerobic decay of landfilled materials. The new Community Compost program creates a neighborhood composting network and a sustainable way to feed the soil!
Teton County has a waste problem. In 2018, Valley residents sent a total of 7,378 tons of waste to Circular Butte landfill in Mud Lake, 90 miles away. That’s more than fourteen and a half million pounds of waste from our small community annually! And at great cost – taxpayer’s money lost and fuel wasted while significantly increasing our “landfill liability” (the price we’ll all pay for decades if contaminants leach into groundwater). According to a study by the University of Arizona Garbage Project, each American throws away approximately 1.3 pounds of food per day, amounting to 475 pounds per person per year. Although our Teton County Transfer Station currently has the capability of composting yard waste, wood, and animal carcasses (buried deeply under wood chips), it’s unlikely that Teton County will develop the capacity to handle food waste any time soon. Issues such as lack of space, funds, and personnel all limit the Transfer Station from adding the management of food waste (composting) on a large scale. What many people don’t realize is that when compostable material is tossed in with the trash, not only does it take up landfill space, it decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) releasing methane, a greenhouse gas six times more potent than CO2! These landfill methane gases account for an estimated 16 percent of all U.S. methane emissions, according to the EPA. Happily, there is an easier way to help solve the problem of “trashed food waste” – a grassroots solution proven effective for millennia: home composting!
It makes sense to encourage all community members to establish their own backyard composting systems. However, it may not be feasible for everyone. Therefore, Teton Valley Community Recycling plans to develop a network among those who are already composting with those who are just beginning, as well as with those who can’t compost at home due to space or other constraints. With a network, those who can’t have their own bins can still collect food waste to give to those who do. With a sound, working backyard compost network in place, Teton County has the potential to eliminate up to 3,000 tons of waste that is unnecessarily being trucked to Circular Butte each year. Additionally, valuable nutrients gleaned via the composting process can feed and build healthy garden soils locally, keeping fertilizers on the shelves – and out of our ground water!
TVCR will be making backyard composting for the uninitiated as easy and inexpensive as possible by removing many common barriers to getting started, including cost for materials and lack of knowledge. This will be achieved by:
- Building Free Composters— TVCR will assemble (or provide) simple compost bin types for interested users. They’ve established three simple models – one made of lightweight fencing, one critter-proof version made from a recycled RAD trash cans, and lastly neighbor” buckets in 2.5- and 5-gallon sizes that can be added to a participating neighbor’s compost pile.
- Laminated instructions –For the neighborhood composting program, TVCR has customizable pictorial signs of what is compostable. In addition, they have simplified, laminated instructions to help people establish and maintain their backyard compost bin if they are new to the process.
- Free workshops –TVCR staff and volunteers include Master Gardeners, farmers, and experienced composters who will offer free compost workshops throughout the spring and summer. Free composters will be available for participants who want them. However, they must first agree to sign up for a follow-up consult to help them troubleshoot any problems and a survey to help us track diversion results. We expect to continue collaborating with Full Circle Education on this community composting outreach, as well as work with 4-H and the Teton County Extension Office.
- Follow up consults –TVCR staff will schedule periodic contact with all compost bin or bucket recipients