Composting in Seattle: Economic and Environmental Savings

Date: 21 Apr 2020 | posted in: waste - composting, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

When programs, fees, and regulations help move organics out of the garbage and into organic carts for collection and composting, the overall cost of municipal solid waste management goes down!

In BioCycle Magazine, longtime ILSR working partner Jeff Morris, PhD, Sound Resource Management, documents the impact of Seattle, Washington’s multi-level composting system, including both single-family and multifamily residences. “Disposal declined from an annual household average of 6.2 pounds (lbs)/collection day in 1977 to 2.4 lbs/collection day by 2018, a decrease of 61%.”

In addition to avoided disposal costs, collection and composting of organic materials provides a beneficial environmental impact of almost $11/ton, due to soil carbon storage and above ground biomass enhancement benefits from applying compost to garden and agricultural soils. “These climate and other environmental benefits of composting outweigh the environmental impacts of the separate organics collection and composting operations. Environmental damage costs savings from diverting organics averaged $82/ton during 2007-2018, an environmental benefit of $3.97/organics subscriber/month throughout the 12 years.”

Morris concludes: “Seattle’s organics management system has provided, and continues to provide, programs, incentives, and regulations that result in long-term declines in disposal, cost savings for ratepayers, and substantial environmental benefits. These successes are all the more remarkable given widespread fears that diversion of recyclables and organics doesn’t make economic sense.” The data shows the climate stability, public health, and ecosystem benefits of diverting materials from disposal in both the short term and long term.

Read more in the April 2020 edition of BioCycle Magazine.

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.