by Avery Kim, 7th Grade
A program recently opened up in Bedford, the town I live in, that is dedicated to reducing the town’s carbon emissions by 20% by the year 2020. Bedford 2020, as the program is called, already has many successes, including requiring grocery stores to charge 10 cents for any disposable bags and starting a community compost program for town residents. These new laws encourages customers to bring reusable bags and help minimize plastic pollution and reduce waste levels.
Currently, food waste and organic scraps make up about 30% of garbage. Most of this compostable material is being buried in landfills or burned in incinerators, releasing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming or pollute the air with waste gases. Along with other pollution, these things have extreme long-term effects and serious impacts on the natural environment and the world we live in.
Composting may seem like one of those far-off ideas that are a lot of work, but in reality, it’s a simple concept that is catching on. When you compost, you’re allowing organic material to decompose into something that can replace chemical fertilizers. This can then be re-incorporated into the natural world as nutrient-rich soil. Unlike landfills, where waste is sealed into the ground, compost has access to oxygen, so it doesn’t produce harmful gases like methane and carbon dioxide. Even if it seems complicated, remember that only a few decades ago recycling seemed like this, and now it’s everywhere.
Depending on the facility, composting can be as much or as little involved as you like. Many farms compost their food scraps and use them directly in their fields and gardens, while suburban families like mine simply drop of their weekly compost at a composting center. Larger facilities, like schools and hospitals, are now adopting composting as well. Some schools use their compost directly from the cafeteria for projects in their gardens. They are able to grow plants during science class, so students get to see the full circle of natural matter. Katonah Elementary School has been composting for seven years now. Universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins are also very environmentally friendly, with compost bins placed around campus alongside the recycling and trash.
If more schools, including ours, can start up a composting program, it would help students learn about the environment in addition to helping the environment itself. Composting at larger facilities, like schools and hospitals, will more significantly reduce the amount of food waste being sent to landfills or incinerators. We can start out with a compost bin in the kitchen and cafeteria, where students and staff can put their food waste. Students and faculty would have to look at the signs and separate their lunch waste. If people put non-compostable items in the compost bin, that would pose a problem, because no one would be sorting through to check, like we do with recycling. We all would have to be responsible and aware of what we are composting, recycling, and throwing away, but after all, if kindergarteners at Katonah Elementary School can compost without putting plastic wrappers in the compost, why can’t we?
Once you get the hang of it, composting becomes a normal thing. Since my family began participating in the Bedford 2020 community compost this January, we’ve all found it hard to go to school or work and throw out compostable food scraps. Again, it’s like recycling; it’s crazy to imagine life where we would throw out all paper, plastic, and metal. I find it shocking that composting is such and easy way for lots of people to help the environment, yet there are so many that still don’t participate in it.
April is Earth Month. I am working with Ms. Donahue to try and get a composting program started at our school, but I encourage you to be more aware of everything you throw away, and the impact it might have on the environment and the future of our natural world.
Check out the resources listed below!
Bedford 2020 website: http://bedford2020.org/
Curbside Compost website (program for composting in Rye, Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, and many more): https://www.curbcompost.org/
“Composting at Home.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 16 Oct. 2018, www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.
Zafar, Salman. “Negative Impacts of Incineration-based Waste-to-energy Technology.” AENews, 8 Sept. 2018, www.alternative-energy-news.info/negative-impacts-waste-to-energy/. Accessed 2 Apr. 2019.