rolling trash cart compared to week’s trash from kitchen

Now that we’ve been at our suburban home outside Philadelphia for a few months, I’ve noticed that the trash is picked up twice a week, in large 64-gallon wheeled trash cans offered by the waste hauler. And most of our neighbors do roll out these large cans to the curb, twice a week!

Meanwhile, our household of two adults who buy in bulk, cook most of our meals at home, have a backyard compost bin, recycle as much as possible, and donate our reusable items to local thrift stores, only roll out our large can about once per month. Our weekly trash from the kitchen is a small 4-gallon bag.

Noticing a bill from the contracted hauler, and that rates were scheduled to go up annually, we have opted for the per bag pickup, which we expect to put out once per month (maybe) thereby saving over $20 each month. 

At the last meeting of Sierra Club’s Southeastern PA Group, we met Tiffany Kennedy of Mother Compost. They offer a curbside collection for food waste, mainly for households along the Main Line as well as commercial customers in Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties. We figure this service would be ideal for households who don’t have a backyard, or who don’t like composting at home. The company offers a lidded bucket and a list of do’s and don’ts for the process. Seems pretty easy and I was eager to share with my neighbors. 

However, I don’t live in a township served by this company. Turns out that Montgomery County, where I live, has a list of companies in the area that process food waste. There is also the national Find a Composter website and the composting map developed by the Institute for Local Self Reliance

During the discussion, we also learned about a new ruling by our state’s DEP specifically for small scale food waste composting facilities. An article on Biocycle magazine explains this ruling. What several of us realized during our discussion is that most of our townships already collect yard waste (mine collects bundled branches and brown paper bags each week); and that they have a site and equipment to compost the yard waste. 

Perhaps this new ruling for food waste composting (general permit 17 for source separated composting) could be used by townships to also collect and compost food waste from residents. Maybe, by default, my neighbors wouldn’t need such large trash cans if their food waste was collected separately.  Maybe, this is how we reduce what gets incinerated and back into our lungs. Maybe, this is how we get to the holy grail of zero waste

This was also published on The Sylvanian, Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter Newsletter, April 2023