People that recycle often feel recycling guilt. It’s when they want to make sure something gets recycled even if it’s not recyclable. This is when wish cycling occurs. You can’t just wish your grease-stained cardboard pizza box can get recycled. Cardboard is recyclable, right? Instead let’s put it where it belongs and really reduce the contents of your waste bin.

To get started, let’s look at the big picture: total trash output. It appears that we reached “Peak Trash” in 1990

While total consumer waste output is continually increasing, the peak landfill output was in 1990. Thankfully recycling has ramped up so landfill use doesn’t follow the same trend.

“Combustion with Energy Recovery” is just cities burning trash in specialized energy recovery facilities and turning it into electricity. It’s better than the landfill, but reuse is always preferred.

Even while landfill output is not increasing, it’s not decreasing fast enough. How can we quickly and easily make a big dent in the trash going to the landfill?


24% of everything that is put into the trash can be composted.

Drawdown lists composting as #60 on the top list of things you can do to reverse global warming. Also if you reduce food waste by purchasing and using the right amount – #3(!) in Drawdown – you’d be killing it on your new year’s resolution.

Many people already do at-home composting with a bin in their backyard. But what if you don’t garden and don’t need fresh soil? Municipal composting will help you reduce your trash and turn your compostable material into rich soils that others can use.

Even people that have home compost bins can enjoy the benefits of municipal composting. The large compost facilities can process materials that your home compost bin can’t – including meat, fish, eggs, even bones. Who wants to trudge through the snow to the backyard compost bin when you can just put it in an organics cart?

Seeing the future

I had the privilege of touring the Mdewakanton Sioux organics recycling facility and Shakopee, MN. We got to see how they manage the organic material, mixing and turning it to keep it composting all year-round (even in the harsh Minnesota winters).

What struck me the most was that the Mdewakanton Sioux started the organics recycling facility as a seventh generation initiative. Not because the organics market is hot right now, but because it is the right thing to do – thinking ahead seven generations down the road.

It’s easy

Many cities and haulers now offer composting options, referred to in their business as curbside organics recycling pickup. Some municipalities, usually those with organized waste collection, will offer organics collection in conjunction with normal yard waste collection.

Fridley, where I live, is running a pilot program for organics collection. Right now it means another (small) garbage can, and in Fridley it picks up on a Wednesday – no matter what your normal trash day is. It is $10 a month to participate. I consider all of these responsibilities to be an investment, ensuring a quarter of my trash is going to be reused.

The bottom line

Composting is just as important as recycling. Used kleenex? Compost it. Coffee grounds and filter? Compost it. Last week’s leftovers that now look like a science experiment? Compost it!

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