Kraus-Anderson recently launched an organics recycling program this month in its Minneapolis and Circle Pines offices. The new program is an initiative of the KA Green Team and our Sustainability Intern, Madison Sundlof, who addressed some of the common questions about organics recycling below.
Q: What is organic waste?
Sundlof: Organic waste is anything that is biodegradable or decomposes naturally.
Q: What organics can I recycle?
Sundlof: Organic waste includes all foods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, bones, fish, eggs, rice, and cheese. It also includes non recyclable paper products like napkins, towels, coffee filters, tea bags, wax paper, pizza boxes, sawdust, egg/milk/juice cartons, Kleenex, gum and fast food wrappers.
Q: What can I not put in the organics bin?
Sundlof: Do not put glass, metal, styrofoam, condiment packets or plastic in the organics bin.
Q: How is this different than recycling?
Sundlof: Recycling takes made man materials and remakes them in to other materials. Organic waste recycling allows the material to break down naturally to produce rich, usable compost that could lessen the necessity for fertilizers on farm fields, lawns, and gardens. It is a full circle process that allows food to be turned into soil, which can in turn become food again. It is recycling of materials that are not compatible with our current recycling systems.
Q: Doesn’t organic waste break down in landfills?
Sundlof: In order to successfully break down, there must be the proper amount of oxygen and bacteria or enzymes. Due to the large amount of waste put in landfills each week, there is not enough air for the food to decompose and not enough space for the bacteria. It then breaks down anaerobically and produces methane, a toxic greenhouse gas. Learn more
Q: How is it used?
Sundlof: The organic waste will be taken to Rosemount Mulch store where it will be turned into compost to be reused and sold in stores to consumers, landscapers and other companies.
Q: How will it benefit KA?
Sundlof: Composting will save KA thousands of dollars annually from reduction of heavy waste taxes and fuel recovery fees. In addition, composting demonstrates our company’s environmental stewardship, and complements our other sustainable practices.
Q: How will it benefit the planet?
Sundlof: Composting diverts waste from landfills, minimizes harmful methane production, lessens reliance on fertilizers, limits waster pollution or run off, restores micro and macro nutrients to soil, reduces soil erosion, decreases water usage, creates a sustainable and full circle cycle.
Q: Why now?
Sundlof: Now is a great time to start, because Minnesota’s solid waste tax will only be increasing in the future. There has been a big turn towards organic recycling in schools, restaurants and business as a cost saving tactic and a positive environmental movement. Some states and cities (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland) are making it mandatory for large commercial companies to recycle their organic waste, and Minnesota is not far behind. By beginning now we are staying ahead of the trend and creating positive habits. It is the right thing to do to, and now is the right time to start.
Q: Will it smell and will there be bugs?
Sundlof: The bins will be taken out at the same time the trash/recycling is currently, preventing any bugs to be attracted to the food. No extra waste is being added, it is just being sorted differently, so the smell should not increase.
Q: How will I know how to sort my trash/recycling/organics?
Sundlof: As with many new practices, organics recycling may require a period of adjustment until it becomes a habit. To start, there will be clear and well labeled signs at each bin specifying what can and cannot be placed in the bins. Also, during large company events, volunteers will stand by the bins to direct the waste to the correct bin and start educating employees and staff.
Q: What if I put something that is not compostable into the organic waste container?
Sundlof: Although you should try to check the list above the bin, if a stray water bottle gets into the compost the waste hauler allows for a 2% error. This means even with a few wrongly sorted items it will still be composted and separated later.
Q: Can I do this at home?
Sundlof: Minneapolis is beginning a city wide composting program this year. Go online to request bins and depending on your location they will be able to collect, at no extra charge, by next week. If you do not live in Minneapolis, contact your waste hauler or start a backyard composting bin!
Q: Where will the bins be located?
Sundlof: Next to all current trash bins as well as in common areas.
Q: Are these organic…?
Used Kleenex? Yes!
Paper Bags? Yes!
Paper coffee cups with or without coffee? Yes!
Salt and pepper packets? Yes! These can be composted, either full or empty.
Condiment packets? These should be put in trash
Plastic salad dressing containers with salad dressing in them? Not for compost. Put them in mixed recycling even if they have food left in them. You do not need to wash first.
A good rule of thumb is to think of what would happen if the product got wet. If it loses its shape/gets mushy, it’s most likely compostable, such as paper towels, paper cups, food or a pizza box. If it maintains its shape, it is either recyclable or trash, i.e. water bottles, pop cans, candy wrappers.
Q: What if I don’t want to get up during the day to compost?
Sundlof: Getting up every hour has great health benefits, but days can be hectic. If you don’t want to get up, put your organics in a paper bag or bin and dispose of all of them at the end of the day. Eventually we would like to have desk compost bins, but until then try this!