Earth Day Reflection: State Budget Testimony on Composting

By Sue Waits

As co-organizer for the JONAH Environmental Task Force I am excited to hear about all the local and state initiatives to address Climate Change. But I am frustrated that we aren’t doing more right now! I am here to recommend something that we could implement today that is simple, and doesn’t require major infrastructure changes. And that is composting! 

Most people think, “Only gardeners compost,” or “What difference can it really make?”  The DNR estimates that 500,000 tons of other compostables hits WI landfills – composting can make a big difference.

Composting achieves 5 things:  

1) Diverts waste from the landfill delaying a future expansion.  The EC County landfill is currently negotiating an expansion and I often times wonder if we had implemented composting programs years ago if we could change todays reality of having to increase the landfill.

2) Reduces methane gases which are more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change. Even though CO2 has a longer-lasting effect, methane sets the pace for warming in the near term.  

3) Protects ground water by not increasing landfill space. 

4) Returns nutrients into the earth.  

5) Educates communities and shows them how they are part of the Climate Change solution. As with recycling programs implemented years ago, composting would involve all WI residents and make them part of the solution.

Composting rather than sending food waste to the landfill is a natural next step as Wisconsin has prohibited yard waste from the landfill since 1993. My hope is that keeping food waste out of the landfill becomes second nature, as well.  

Statistics by the EPA and the Department of Agriculture show that if 4 households composted food scraps – they could effectively remove 1 car from the roads and if 8 households composted it could offset an average home electricity use.  

I encourage the state to move towards community wide composting as just one of the many Climate Change actions that would involve all citizens, have an immediate impact and show WI Residents that there is something we can do to be part of the Climate Change solution.