In the News: Brenda Platt
October 26, 2017
Media Outlet: WAMU 88.5FM – American University Radio
With the growth of curbside composting in the United States over the last few years, WAMU’s Jacob Fenston took to investigate the challenges and opportunities cities have when implementing them. For some policy heft he spoke to ILSR’s co-director and the director of the Composting for Community initiative, Brenda Platt to explore this phenomenon.
Brenda’s contribution is below:
The idea behind curbside pickup is to make composting as easy and accessible as possible. There’s no messy pile to turn, and you don’t need a backyard or garden.
“There’s a lot of interest already,” said Annie White, who manages the waste diversion office at the District Department of Public Works. The drop-off sites are a way to grow that interest and also help educate the citizenry ahead of the coming curbside compost revolution.
“It’s exponential in terms of growing, so that’s very exciting,” said Brenda Platt, co-director of the nonprofit Institute for Local Self Reliance. She said nationally, the number of government-sponsored compost pickup programs is skyrocketing, doubling in just the past three years to more than 300.
Platt is a longtime advocate for diverting waste from landfills and incinerators. Thirty years ago, she was on the frontlines fighting to take recycling mainstream. Now, she said composting seems to be at a tipping point, like curbside recycling was decades ago.
“It’s just going to catch on,” she said.
According to a new study she’s compiling for the composting magazine BioCycle, there are now 9 million households around the country served by curbside food scrap collection programs. This is triple the number from the last count in 2014.
Platt said composting resonates with people these days because it’s simple and local, and yet it addresses a big global problem: climate change.
“Composting is really one of the quickest, most short-term things we can do to slow down climate change, reverse methane emissions, sequester carbon in soil,” she explained.
When things like watermelon rinds, banana peels and broccoli stems end up in a landfill, they release methane gas while decomposing. Nationwide, our landfilled food waste releases greenhouse gasses equal to 8 million passenger cars a year.
“But when you convert those food scraps into compost, it now becomes an asset,” said Platt. In a compost pile, a different group of microorganisms break down the organic matter, and don’t release methane. Finished compost can be sold to gardeners, farmers or landscapers, returning nutrients to the soil.
Brenda Platt, with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, was optimistic about the plan. She said D.C. has the opportunity to become a composting leader.
“It could be leapfrog; learn from the best programs around the country and do it right,” Platt said.
But if the District does any leapfrogging, it’s going to be a big jump: San Francisco, which has the highest waste diversion rate in the country, already recycles and composts 80 percent of its waste. That’s the goal the District set for 18 years from now.