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US cities are now composting their food waste

Words by Smiley Team

Composting can help shield farms from droughts and water shortages, which is something International Compost Awareness Week – from May 1 to May 7 – aims to highlight.

With ongoing droughts, and water conservation rules, states like California are turning to composting to make farming more efficient. 

California is the largest producer of food in the US and in January, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared the California drought a "state of emergency". Alongside that declaration, California became the second state, following Vermont, to make large-scale composting required by law. 

The awareness week is run by the nonprofit, Compost Foundation, which aims are to advance composting technologies, practices, and beneficial uses that support resource conservation and economic and environmental sustainability. 

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What is large-scale composting?

The bill, signed into law by former California Governor Jerry Brown in 2016, aims to reduce food waste in landfills by 75% by 2025.

Across the United States, food waste makes up about 24% of landfill contents, and when that food decomposes it releases methane. Methane is tens of times more potent than carbon dioxide and is one of the main greenhouse gasses fueling the climate crisis. Landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

“Scientists tell us that greenhouse gasses released by human activities, like landfilling food and yard waste, cause climate change,” California Recycling said on their website. “To respond to this climate crisis, California is implementing statewide organic waste recycling and surplus food recovery.”

On top of reducing methane emissions compost, as said before, leads to more efficient farming. According to the California Recycle website, compost “provides nutrients in a stable organic form, increases plant growth and health, and conserves water.”

According to eOrganic, an organization that provides information on organic farming, compost proves increased microbial activity in the soil, promotes plant growth, and looks to regenerate the soil. 

“Regenerative agriculture is a system that focuses on improving soil health using agricultural practices with the idea that healthier soil will lead to healthier, more nutrient-rich crops and, ultimately, less carbon in the atmosphere through increased carbon sequestration,” the Compost Foundation said.

“When added to farmland, gardens, yards, and other landscapes creates healthier soils and crops by providing food for soil microbes in the ground.”

Inspired to act?

DONATE: Find out the ways to support the Composting Foundation – they’re the organization behind the International Compost Awareness Week.

GET EDUCATED: The nonprofit runs a composting training programme to help educate communities. 

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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