Letter: New guidelines help ensure composting efforts don’t go to waste
This past March, the Boulder County Composting authority changed its composting guidelines. Effective April 1, it is recommended that commercial composters only accept food and yard waste, and refuse all paper and plastic products, including those labeled ‘compostable.’ Commercial composters in Steamboat Springs are likely to also adopt this policy.
This change is annoying for veteran composters, such as myself. I mean, there’s nothing that feels better in this warming world than getting rid of waste the “right” way. Looking at the bigger picture, though, this shift in composting guidelines is a good thing, since it simplifies the composting process for newbies, and results in a better, cleaner product.
The reason for Boulder County’s change in compost guidelines is because polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) were found to be used in paper and plastic products, and remained present in the compost product. PFAS is used as a coating on disposable products that make them resistant to water and heat. When ingested directly and in large amounts, PFAS can cause certain types of cancer and affect your hormones, liver and thyroid functions.
The most damning: these chemicals don’t break down during composting processes and remain present in the compost final product that you use in your gardens. Eliminating the acceptance of PFAS products in composting centers reduces your exposure to ingestible PFAS.
This change also makes composting more effective, both on the compost company’s side and the consumer’s side. In January, A1 Organics — the largest commercial composter in Colorado — stopped accepting non-food and yard waste due to the sheer amount of contamination that they had to sort out. According to A1’s marketing manager, everything from cutlery to clothing has been found in compost coming from Denver and Boulder. An overabundance of non-compostable contamination, or any presence of glass, leads to the entire truckload of compost being sent to the landfill.
It’s easy to look down on A1 Organics’ customers for not being able to tell the difference between compostable and non-compostable waste, but can you blame them? Most of the products we trash every day are a mixture of materials, so judging the compostability of a durable good is nearly impossible. This is where the new composting guidelines are a benefit to the composting sphere.
McKenna R. Deeble
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