Now let me start off by saying that I haven’t done a lick of research into the hurdles the city would have to be overcome to actually dispose of compost accumulated from around Decatur. Perhaps the City’s Lena Stevens will step in and set me straight on that.
But the recently released first draft of the city’s Sustainability Plan goal “Promote the Expansion of Food Composting” got me thinking, “How hard would it be to get Decaturites composting?”
After doing a bit of looking around and some sporadic noodle-scratching, I determined, “Not that hard at all!”. And I’m not even talking about implementing the kind of militant composting prescriptions of the Pacific Northwest (San Fran, Seattle), which require composting under penalty of “liens, fines, and other fees.” While Decaturites are often pointed to as some of the most liberal Georgia residents, most actual residents know that if you fly a bunch of us over to the piney lakes of Washington State many of us “progressives” would sound down right conservative. (“Where’d you get that plastic grocery bag son? Atlanta, eh??”)
Why do I have such blind and unsubstantiated faith in the potential ease of convincing Decaturites to compost?
Well sure, a lot of us are more inclined than your average metro-Atlantan to latch onto ways to reduce our footprint o’ carbon. But also, there’s already a system in place that lends itself to encouraging composting – Pay-As-You-Throw.
First implemented in 1982 to encourage zombie-part recycling (many folks weren’t properly “disposing” of their zombies and the city had to step in), Pay-As-You-Throw was eventually expanded to glass, paper, metal and plastic recycling, as folks’ zombie-fears were replaced with zombie-free planetary concerns about air pollution and waste-disposal.
If Decatur were to follow a less stick-ish composting program – like Portland, Oregon’s – we might just see people picking up the habit as fast as a strolling Decaturite crosses the street to avoid a blue or red vested surveyer! What are the main features of Portland’s program? I’m so glad I asked!
- It picks up compost every week. This includes both food scraps and yard waste – in the same container. “Accepted items include meat, bones, dairy, grains, cooked foods and pizza delivery boxes.”, according to a Portland pamphlet.
- They give you a kitchen pail “for collecting food scraps in your kitchen”.
- They continue to pick up recycling every week.
- Now here’s the biggie. They cut down on trash pick-up from once a week to once every two weeks. (You know, because if you’re composting your trash will have less reason to stink. Though I’m sure dog/baby owners will be speaking up here to point out my obvious exception to that rule.)
While some may object to such infrequent trash pickup, they should note that such a cutback would minimize any additional cost to the city in disposing of compost, as trash pickup would occur half as often.
Would it be worth it? Well, that’s up to Decatur’s Sustainability Board and the city’s residents to decide. Maybe Portland’s plan still goes farther than most liberal Decaturites in the conservative South are willing to wander. But one thing seems certain. Decatur looks like it has more than a few options for jump-starting an easy-to-compost initiative here. And that may just be thanks in large part to a certain recycling program that’s been in place for a good 15 years.
Photo courtesy of KATU