Compost Happens


When you chuck the greasy pizza box, pounds of used paper napkins, chicken bones or apple peels – where does it go? In too many cases it’s going in your garbage and ultimately, it winds up in one of our overused landfills.  Every year, Americans waste tons of food, making it the number one material taking up landfill space – even more than plastic or paper waste. The cost to us all is that this produces methane gas, a harmful pollutant that contributes to smog and breathing issues.

But since 2015, Danville, Alamo, Blackhawk and Diablo residents have been moving away from their methane addiction to a “Compost Happens” attitude. With the help of RecycleSmart’s residential food scrap program, customers can divert their food waste from landfill to composting locations. To make it simpler to collect food scraps at your home, customers can request a free food scraps pail by calling Republic Services at (925) 685-4711. Each plastic container has a tight sealing lid and handle. You can store the container in your kitchen to collect food waste and soiled paper material and then empty it weekly into your organics bin – the green cart also used for yard clippings.

Here are some helpful tips for recycling food scraps at your home:

  • Still get a paper newspaper? Line the container to help absorb liquids. Dispose the liner with the food scraps and start fresh the following week.
  • If you choose to use a bag to line the container, please use compostable ones and not biodegradable bags. Look for “Compostable: BPI-Meets ASTM 6400 Standard” on the
  • Don’t like the smell? Empty scraps into a container and freeze them before emptying them directly your organics bin. It also reduces the messiness of wet food scrap materials.
  • Yard trimming are a great way to mask any odors in your organics bin – just bury the food scraps under a layer of clippings.
  • For those members of our household, that are too lazy to lift the container lid…I also have a small utensil drying rack (available on Amazon or at your local kitchen supply store) that hooks over the inside rim of my kitchen waste pail and catches apple cores and other snack waste. At the end of the day, I empty this collection into the container under the kitchen sink.
  • Pizza boxes and other soiled paper products go directly into the organics bin instead of contaminating the recycled paper container.

While it might be easier to dump everything into a garbage pail or into the sink disposal; I’m happy to do my part to reduce the 96% of food waste that the EPA estimates is clogging our landfills and contributing to air pollution. The only thing I feel badly about is that I’m stealing nutrients from my garden, so I save autumn leaves for my plants.

Autumn leaf drop provides plenty of material to give composting a great start! Composting will transform leaves and other yard waste into a high-quality soil amendment that will invigorate my landscaping. It is far more energy efficient to compost yard waste right in our own backyard then carting it off to a landfill. When we compost, we are simply replicating a natural process that is going on all around us. Soils are continually replenished by nutrient-rich dead grasses and leaves as they decompose on their own.

Many residents assume it is too much work to do their own composting. Nothing could be further from the truth! Typically composting requires less than 15 minutes of time every two weeks and will yield finished compost in as little as four months.

Here is a simple, low-effort method for composting using a compost bin. When building a compost pile, use equal amounts of fresh yard waste (high nitrogen content) and old, dry yard waste (high carbon content). Mix these materials together as they go into your bin, and add water. Once composting has started, the material in your bin will begin to get warm or even hot! This is a positive sign that aerobic decomposition has started. Turn or agitate the composting yard waste once every ten to fourteen days to maintain faster decomposition. The water content should be moist, not wet. Go ahead and add fresh yard waste when needed. After a few months, most of what has been added will look like dark brown, fluffy soil. This indicates that the composting process is done and the finished compost is ready to be distributed around your yard.

For more information on composting, visit You’ll find great resources, including videos and a list of workshop events. Their next Composting for Busy People is Saturday, November 5th 10 -11:30am at Sloat Garden Center. Reservations are required, but participation is free. Call (925) 906-1801 or visit their website.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:


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