Monthly Archives: May 2011

Compost in the Kitchen – the paper towel dilemma

I’ve always felt a certain level of guilt concerning my wildly indulgent use of paper towels. Spilled soda? Grab a paper towel. Crumbs on the counter? Grab a paper towel. Wet hands? You guessed it, paper towel.

I had always felt bad about my overuse of paper towels and was annoyed by how they filled up the trash can so quickly. So, naturally, I was delighted when Seattle’s waste management program began offering curbside compost pickup. This meant I could now put all my paper towels and kitchen scraps in a small container inside the house and dump it in the big yard waste bin outside.

After I’d been composting for a while, I decided to find out if my little contribution to composting was actually  doing anything useful for the environment, or simply relieving my paper towel-induced guilt. I did a little research and discovered the average household’s compostable waste is about 25% of their total garbage output. I found that to be true after a few months of personal observation.

I’ve now been participating in kitchen composting for almost two years and am pleased to see it catching on. Right now about 90% of single-family households in the Seattle area have compost pickup, and many apartment buildings and businesses (like our parent company, compost as well.

Unfortunately, these services aren’t available everywhere yet; and just like the evolution of curbside recycling, it’ll probably take years for curbside composting to become the norm nationwide. If your city doesn’t offer these services, you can consider composting in your backyard or find a local drop-off center that’ll take your compostables off your hands for free. It’s easier than you think to get started, check out these at-home compost solutions.

I feel good that I’m helping keep a quarter of my waste out of the trash stream, including all those paper towels, which I stopped using entirely when I saw how fast they were filling up the compost bin. So, this story has a happy ending: Not only am I recycling all my food scraps, I ended up going even greener than I meant to in the first place.