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Composting in Milton

Teresita Cochran

“Composting is the natural process of decomposition, sped up by a deliberate strategy in a concentrated environment to transform ingredients in to a new material that can then be incorporated back into the soil.” (- Earth 911) As a kid, my parents had an urban garden in the heart of St.Louis, MO. We grew corn, peppers, rhubarb, strawberries and more on a vacant lot between two historic brick buildings. Aside from the memories of picking fresh food, I remember it being normal to put rotten food into a compost pile my parents set off at the back of the garden. It was teeming with fruit flies and worms, and I remember it smelling of healthy, wet earth. My mother is from India, and there everyone composts without much thought. One simply throws the remains of whatever they’re eating/don’t want into the street where dogs and rodents get into it until the piles are nearly gone. It’s different here. We throw packaging and food waste into the trash and now, so does India. However, the muscle memory for littering the streets is still ingrained, and instead of just biodegradable things, now it’s packaging also... crinkly, soggy, and clogging the streets, rivers and fields. It’s not just India that is clogging with trash. As of January 2018, China has refused to take and process mixed paper and most plastics,which the United States had been shipping there for 25+ years. The impact of this can be felt globally and locally. In fact, the cost to process trash from Milton has gone up by 40-50% recently due to landfills literally filling up,plus the newly inflated cost of processing recycling. Hillary Waite, the Environmental coordinator for Milton said, “We used to make money on recycling.Now we pay $95 per ton to have it processed.” Last year just under 60% percent of Milton’s waste was general trash, 36% was recycling, and about 3% was yard waste. That amounts to 5715 tons of solid waste, 3385 tons of recycling, and just under 6000 cubic yards of yard waste from July 2018 - June 2019. The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) estimates that about 25% of all general trash is organic material - all of which could be commercially composted and taken out of the waste stream. If just Milton’s food waste and yard waste were pulled out of the solid waste stream and composted, it would reduce the amount of trash produced by 28% - thus lowering the cost of trash pick-up and reducing Milton’s carbon footprint significantly, while also improving the health of the town. Additionally, having Brookwood Farm in town, there may be a potential to utilize the compost to fertilize the Farm and grow more food for the community, keeping the loop from “table to farm” small and self-contained,and in doing so, improving the sustainability of our town. Our neighbor, Boston, is eyeing a compost subscription program for the city, to begin as soon as this Fall. The city of Cambridge implemented curbside compost collection for 25,000 residences in April 2018 and boasts “in our first year of citywide compost, we composted 1800 tons of food scraps and reduced trash by 8% citywide.” Hingham and Somerville are among the towns who are beginning that process by starting with their schools, and adding residences in a second phase. Milton has an opportunity to take action and  join leaders in this worthwhile undertaking,while also reducing our carbon footprint and improving the health and sustainability of our local - and by extension - global community. Contact Sustainable Milton to find out how you can support composting in Milton.



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