There are many companies and people who want to compost, but there regional infrastructure is not there. Everything is connected: compost facilities need waste haulers to collect and transport source separated organics; waste haulers need people and companies to source separate their organics; and people need affordable organics recycling services and compostable materials. Local composting infrastructure is the linchpin in this equation and without it there is no competitive market, and doing the right thing is obstructed by a price barrier.
Compost facilities charge lower tipping fees than landfills and incinerators, like the one we have in Westchester. However, when facilities are too far away, the transportation costs eat into the potential savings and haulers are not able to charge a competitive enough price for their organics recycling service to incentivize people to make the switch.
Another real cost barrier is the price of compostable disposable items. As demand for these products rises, the cost of these items have decreased, but they are still significantly more expensive than their fossil fuel counterparts. If there is no regional facility, people won't implement organics recycling, and the demand for compostable disposables will not rise. Furthermore, how do you compete when fossil fuels are unnaturally cheap because of billions of dollars of subsidies? Petroleum and plastic companies are on target to double their production of virgin plastics in the coming years because there is still such a demand for cheap disposable items.
While we are on the topic of cheap fossil fuels, I feel obligated to bring attention to the elephant in the room and address the fact that most compostable plastics are made from genetically modified corn. GM corn grown in the our conventional, industrial agriculture system is an extremely fossil fuel and resource intensive process, and is only cost effective because of fossil fuel subsidies. However, it does not have to be done that way. We can change how we grow, and we can and should move away from disposables.
So you may ask yourself, what's the benefit? The benefit is that petroleum plastic is "forever" and compostable plastics will decompose back into organic materials. However, this only works an aerobic composting facilities. So when you throw your compostable plastic item in the trash, or send it to an anaerobic digester, it does not decompose.
As a PSA to all companies using compostable products, but putting them in the trash: call your waste hauler and ask them if they offer organics recycling. If they don't, call C.R.P. Sanitation Inc. 914.592.4129 and ask about their organics recycling service.
Our local, state and federal officials need to hear and feel the support for organics recycling. It does not matter whether the haulers or facilities are public or private— we need them all to combat climate change and restore our soils.