Can Composting Save the Landfill?

By Megan Schaefer, JONAH Intern

My name is Megan Schaefer, and I am an intern with JONAH. I am currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In my time here, I am hoping to gain a greater understanding of JONAH’s mission and the work that is done through the organization for the community. I plan to assist JONAH in accomplishing that mission through writing and communication this spring.

A 2020-2021 study conducted by DNR study has shown that thirty percent of waste in landfills is organic. Organic waste is often from food that was edible, which is the number one material found in the landfills. Thirty percent is a high increase given that just roughly ten years ago, the percentage found in a prior study was about half of that amount. This present study was conducted on fourteen landfills and a solid waste transfer station in the state of Wisconsin. While it is possible that the results were altered by the pandemic, the findings of this study show that there is an opportunity to divert waste. One way to do this is through composting. 

Although many individuals do backyard composting, it is not widespread. In Eau Claire, one trash hauler offers curbside composting, yet it is not available throughout Eau Claire county.  Community wide curbside composting presents some infrastructure issues with regards to how compost is collected and processed. Another key issue is community awareness and education with regards to the ever-growing landfill and the opportunity to divert waste through composting. 

Currently, Sue Waits of the Environmental Task Force of JONAH is working with students at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire to study whether or not composting is feasible and if the current system allows for it. As Composting can help to divert waste from a landfill and provide more space, recognition of the issue of composting is crucial. Education is important to raise awareness about the growing landfill and the opportunity to slow its growth by diverting organic waste.  See this article to learn more: New DNR Waste Characterization Study Reveals Increase In Food Waste And Opportunities For Waste Reduction | Wisconsin DNR