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These days, recycling gets all the attention. Yet while the world scoffs at global recycling rates and panics at plastic pollution, I often wonder when a similar wave of public outrage will arrive for recycling’s biological counterpart: the humble world of compost.
In the United States, only about 5 percent of households have access to curbside food waste collection, compared to about 50 percent of U.S. homes (PDF) with automatic curbside recycling available. Looking at municipal solid waste in the U.S., only 2.6 millions tons of the food waste generated in 2017 were composted — just 6.3 percent of the 40.7 million tons of total food waste generated, according to an EPA estimate.
Access to curbside organics recycling is just one piece of the broader challenge that cities face when it comes to capturing, transporting, breaking down and selling compost at scale.