Washington Post, March 11, 2013
Richard Vitullo has seen the future of trash, and it is moldering under his kitchen sink.
Eggshell by eggshell, the Takoma Park architect is training himself to bypass the garbage pail and drop food scraps into the new screw-top bucket squeezed in beside the dish soap and sponges. Once a week, he is to leave the bucket on the street in front of his house, where a city trash truck will pick up the glop and haul it to a composting facility in Baltimore.
“It’s taking some getting used to,” Vitullo, 57, said of Takoma Park’s tentative foray into curbside compost collection. The biggest challenge? Overriding decades of kitchen muscle memory. “The first week, it’s been a two-part process. First I throw the food in the trash, and then I remember, take it out and throw it in the compost bin.”
Vitullo’s is one of more than 300 households taking part in Takoma Park’s six-month volunteer pilot program, one of the region’s early experiments in the municipal pickup of residential food waste. The effort is just getting started, but Vitullo’s experience in curbside composting is likely to be shared by homeowners across the region in coming years.
“Within five or 10 years, setting food scraps out on the curb for composting is going to be the norm, just like curbside recycling is now,” said Brenda Platt, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a District-based environmental group.
Composting food waste has long been popular with backyard gardeners and zero-waste enthusiasts. Supermarkets and restaurants also ship scraps to commercial composting yards.
But now composting is coming to the kitchens of ordinary families. An increasing number of curbside pickup programs are forming the third wave of household waste handling, with food-scrap containers assuming their place next to trash and recycling bins on more and more sidewalks. More than 160 municipalities pick up separated organic trash, including green trendsetters San Francisco, Seattle and Austin.