Food Waste & Climate Change: Seattle Cracks Down On Composting | IN Close

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EVERY SUNDAY, BRIAN AND SARAH MILLS CHOP ENOUGH VEGGIES TO MAKE A WEEK'S WORTH OF SALAD LUNCHES. >> THERE'S NO QUESTION. WHAT WILL I HAVE FOR LUNCH ON THURSDAY? I KNOW I AM HAVING A SALAD FOR LUNCH ON THURSDAY. IT WILL BE THE EXACT SAME SALAD I HAD LAST THURSDAY AND THE THURSDAY BEFORE THAT. >> SALADS HELP THE FAMILY WATCH WHAT THEY EAT. THEY ALSO HELP THEM CUT BACK ON THE FOOD THEY BRING HOME, BUT DON'T EAT. >> BY THINKING AHEAD ABOUT OUR FOOD PREP IT MAKES IT SO THAT WE HAVE LESS FOOD WASTE OVERALL. >> BY CAREFULLY PLANNING MEALS, THE FAMILY AVOIDS OVERSPENDING ON FOOD THAT ROTS BEFORE THEY GET A CHANCE TO EAT IT. BUT EVEN THE BEST-LAID PLANS DON'T ALWAYS WORK OUT. >> WE HAVE TWO KIDS. THEY SOMETIMES EAT WHAT WE PUT ON THEIR PLATE >> NOT ALWAYS. >> YEAH. >> AFTER DINNER, THE SCRAPS PILE UP IN A TUPPERWARE BIN ON THE COUNTER. >> YOU SEE IT IN THE CONTAINER AND YOU SEE HOW MUCH YOU'RE WASTING. KIND OF GROSS. >> FOR US IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

>> YEAH. >> THAN YUCKY. IT'S GROSS AS IN IT'S GROSSLY WASTEFUL. >> ABOUT 40% OF FOOD PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES IS WASTED. IN JUST ONE DAY, AMERICANS THROW AWAY ENOUGH FOOD TO FEED THE ENTIRE SEATTLE METRO AREA FOR TWO WEEKS. OF COURSE, AVOIDING FOOD WASTE ENTIRELY ISN'T POSSIBLE. SOME PARTS OF FOOD JUST AREN'T EDIBLE. BUT BECAUSE THE MILLS LIVE IN A SEATTLE SUBURB, THEIR FOOD WASTE DOESN'T HAVE TO BE TOSSED IN THE GARBAGE. THEIR KIDS ALREADY KNOW WHERE THE FOOD SCRAPS GO. >> THE YARD WASTE. >> SEATTLE IS ONE OF THE FEW MAJOR U.S. CITIES ALONG WITH PORTLAND AND SAN FRANCISCO TO HAVE CURBSIDE COMPOSTING. BUT THE PROGRAM HASN'T SOLVED THE PROBLEM. SPEND THE MORNING COLLECTING SEATTLE'S TRASH AND YOU'LL SEE FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD. AT THE SOUTH SEATTLE DUMP, DEETER ECKLES IS LEADING A CREW RANDOMIZING SAMPLES OF THE CITY'S GARBAGE. THE TEAM HAND SORTS EVERYTHING INTO MORE THAN A HUNDRED DIFFERENT CATEGORIES. >> THIS LOOKS LIKE IT HAS MORE FOOD IN IT.

>> MEASURING EXACTLY WHAT PEOPLE ARE THROWING OUT PAINTS A PICTURE OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN RECYCLED OR COMPOSTED. THE TEAM HAS DONE SIMILAR STUDIES IN MOST MAJOR U.S. CITIES, AND THEY FOUND THAT SEATTLE IS AT THE FOREFRONT, DIVERTING TEN TIMES THE FOOD WASTE OF THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. BUT THERE'S ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT. >> THERE ARE STILL LOTS OF THINGS GOING IN THE GARBAGE CAN THAT SHOULDN'T BE GOING IN THERE. FOOD. FOOD IS REALLY THE BIG ONE THAT SHOULDN'T — SHOULDN'T BE IN YOUR GARBAGE CAN. >> EVEN THOUGH SEATTLE HAS BEEN COLLECTING FOOD SCRAPS FOR NEARLY A DECADE, MANY RESIDENTS CONTINUE TO THROW FOOD IN THE TRASH SO MUCH SO THAT BY WEIGHT, FOOD STILL MAKES UP ABOUT 20% THE GARBAGE. >> WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT IN A PILE, IT IS A PRETTY SMALL PIECE OF THE PILE. BY WEIGHT BY FAR THE LARGEST SINGLE PIECE OF GARBAGE IS FOOD. >> THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ESTIMATES THAT NATIONWIDE 36 MILLION TONS OF FOOD ARE THROWN AWAY EACH YEAR.

THAT'S THE EQUIVALENT OF 7,000 DUMP TRUCKS' WORTH OF FOOD EVERY SINGLE DAY. ONLY ABOUT 5% OF THAT GETS DIVERTED FROM THE LANDFILL AND TURNED INTO COMPOST. FOOD WASTE TAKES UP VALUABLE SPACE IN LANDFILLS. AND ONCE IT'S THERE, IT RELEASES METHANE, A GREENHOUSE GAS THAT'S 25 TIMES MORE POTENT THAN CARBON DIOXIDE. ONE STUDY ESTIMATES THAT REMOVING FOOD WASTE FROM THE LANDFILLS WOULD BE LIKE TAKING ONE OUT OF EVERY FIVE CARS OFF THE ROAD. STEPHAN BANCHERO IS THE CEO OF CEDAR GROVE COMPOSTING IN WESTERN WASHINGTON, ONE OF THE LARGEST OPERATIONS OF ITS KIND IN THE COUNTRY. >> WE'RE HANDLING OVER 75,000 TONS OF FOOD WASTE A YEAR, ESCALATING EACH YEAR. PULLING THAT DIRECTLY OUT OF THE LANDFILL AND MAKING SOIL OUT OF IT. >> IN THE UNITED STATES, TOPSOIL IS DEPLETED TEN TIMES FASTER THAN IT'S REPLACED.

IT TAKES HUNDREDS OF YEARS TO CREATE ONE INCH OF TOPSOIL NATURALLY. AT CEDAR GROVE IT TAKES LESS THAN TWO MONTHS TO CONVERT A HEAP OF ORGANIC WASTE INTO COMPOST. >> THERE IS ALWAYS A NEED FOR THE SOIL. FOOD WASTE COMPOSTING, THE INTENT IS TO MAKE SOIL THAT CAN BE REUSED. >> EACH DAY, ABOUT 700 TONS OF ORGANIC WASTE IS TRUCKED IN, AND A FRACTION OF THAT, ABOUT 10 TO 15 PERCENT, IS FOOD. THE ORGANIC MATTER IS RUN THROUGH A GRINDER AND MIXED TO DISTRIBUTE THE NUTRIENT RICH FOOD SCRAPS AMONG THE GRASS CLIPPINGS AND WOODY DEBRIS. IT'S THEN STORED IN PILES WHERE MICROBES SET TO WORK. AIR MOVEMENT THROUGH THE STACKS IS CAREFULLY CONTROLLED TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS. AS MORE FOOD SCRAPS ARRIVE AT CEDAR GROVE, THEY ARE ALSO SEEING AN INCREASE IN FOOD PACKAGING MATERIALS THAT DON'T BREAK DOWN. >> THIS IS STRAIGHT PLASTIC. PIECE OF PLASTIC, IF IT GOES THROUGH THE GRINDER, THAT PIECE OF PLASTIC IS NOW TEN SMALL PIECES OF PLASTIC.

>> THEY USE A VARIETY OF METHODS TO SIFT OUT SMALL PIECES OF GLASS, PLASTIC AND METAL, BUT THEY ARE ALL EXPENSIVE AND SMALL BITS STILL MAKE IT THROUGH. >> YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU'RE GETTING IN YOUR CONTAINER. WE DON'T WANT HALF FOOD WASTE AND HALF PLASTIC. WE CAN'T ACCEPT PLASTIC. >> TIM CROLL IS THE SOLID WASTE DIRECTOR FOR SEATTLE PUBLIC UTILITIES. ON CROLL'S WATCH, THE CITY IS RECYCLING 56% OF ITS GARBAGE. THAT'S GOOD, BUT IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO MEET THE TARGETS SEATTLE SET FOR ITSELF BY 2016. >> THE RATE THAT WE'VE BEEN GOING THE LAST TWO YEARS WOULD GET US TO OUR 60% RECYCLING GOAL IN ABOUT EIGHT YEARS. WE REALLY HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. WE CAN'T JUST SIT OUT THERE AND ROOT MORE.

>> SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL RECENTLY VOTED TO START CRACKING DOWN, STARTING IN 2015, FOOD WASTE AND COMPOSTABLE PAPER WILL NO LONGER BE ALLOWED TO GO IN THE GARBAGE. FAMILIES WHO BREAK THE RULES WILL BE FINED, ONE WHOLE DOLLAR. THE FINE, CROLL SAYS, REALLY ISN'T ABOUT THE MONEY. >> WE'RE NOT OUT THERE TO GET A BUNCH OF MONEY ON THESE FEES, SINGLE BANANA PEEL OR APPLE CORE IS NOT GOING TO DO IT. WE'LL PICK IT UP AND DUMP IT BUT WE'LL LEAVE A NOTE THAT WE ARE LEVYING A $1 FEE. >> THE RULES WILL GO INTO EFFECT IN JANUARY, BUT GARBAGE COLLECTORS WON'T START LEVYING FINES UNTIL JULY. YOU PROBABLY WON'T FIND THE MILLS FAMILY GETTING HIT WITH A FINE FOR SHIRKING THEIR COMPOSTING DUTIES. >> IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT IT'S SO SIMPLE AND WHY NOT.

IS IT REALLY THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT? OUR FIVE AND SEVEN-YEAR-OLDS DO IT. >> IT'S NOT DIFFICULT TO PUT SOMETHING IN A BIN. >> SO SIMPLE EVEN A CHILD COULD DO IT..

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