Climate change is here, and it's making people more aware of the need to protect the environment, with about 7 in 10 Americans concerned about the impact of climate change on themselves and their children, according to the survey. Two thirds believe the government needs to be doing more about it. And an overwhelming 77% are in favor of taking personal action – like composting – to help prevent future tragedy.
But only about 20% of people participate in composting programs, according to experts, because the rest don’t have easy access to compost collection or drop-off programs. In many places, composting is far less convenient than other waste disposal, like trash and recycling. Making composting as easy as trash disposal is a key driver behind the success of the growing number of bans on food scraps in the garbage.
Jurisdictions throughout the US, from California to Vermont have already implemented mandatory composting programs, or, plan to soon. While these programs differ depending on jurisdiction, most have some common features, many modeled after the San Francisco program – including a requirement for the homeowner or landlord to acquire special disposal bins, and to subscribe to a composting program in which a truck will come by once a week or so to pick up the organic waste; and the imposition of fines or other penalties for failing to comply.
Americans usually don't like "mandatory" things - whether it's mandatory military service, mandatory voting, or even mandatory furloughs. But they seem ready to comply with mandatory composting programs; in Vermont, for example, where food scraps have been banned from the trash since mid-2020, compliance has been "very good," according to officials. And in San Francisco, more than 80 percent of food waste is composted. In both cases, the success is likely due to the fact that Vermont and the city of San Francisco have made composting very easy, with many options for throwing it away or picking it up at residents' homes. In contrast, in some areas of California, where a statewide ban on food scraps in the trash was implemented last year, residents have had a hard time complying because their local trash collection service does not offer the option of collecting compost bins.
So, how can we get this program right? In addition to the need for the government to subsidize this effort to ensure that everyone can afford the service; the need for collection to be frequent enough to ensure convenience; the need for incentives, such as tax breaks, to encourage private homeowners to set up and maintain their own compost piles; and the need to promote compostable products, such as compostable garbage bags, compostable plastic bags, compostable paper bags, and other household items, to understand that people who need to separate their recyclables People who understand the need to separate their recyclables will also understand the importance of composting their leftovers. Most importantly, residents need to understand the importance of composting, and once this awareness is developed, coupled with government policies, the willingness of people to actively embrace composting will greatly increase.