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Compost Works for climate goals

By Joan Qazi, SNCW board member

Is excessive heat actually excessive anymore? According to the National Weather Service, excessive heat warnings are triggered when maximum temperatures are expected to be 105° or higher for at least 2 days and not fall below 75° at night. It does feel excessive, but these heat events are becoming all too familiar for us in North Central Washington. The world is warming and we need to learn how to adapt to climate variability for greater resiliency. I’ve written before about the importance of reducing food waste to help fight global warming. As a reminder, one third of all food produced in high-income countries is wasted, and when it rots in landfills, it emits methane which is 25 times more heat-trapping than carbon in the atmosphere. Community Harvest is a local gleaning program that reduces food waste and greenhouse gases by harvesting produce that would otherwise be left to rot and distributing it to local food banks. Now, we have another option for tackling food waste, while creating valuable compost, through Winton Manufacturing- Compost Works.

Aerial view of Winton Mfg near Coles Corner

Located 14 miles northwest of Leavenworth off HWY 2, Winton Mfg repurposed the decommissioned sawmill there to offer a local solution for waste diversion. Using membrane covers and computer controlled positive aeration, Winton’s advanced technologies encourage microbes to break down food and yard waste into nutrient rich compost, topsoil, and other amendments. These are available for sale to local farmers, gardeners, landscapers, and municipalities, closing the loop on a circular economy. In other words, Winton is helping to transform our ‘take, make, waste’ linear economy into one that eliminates waste by allowing resources to circulate and nature to regenerate.

Winton Compost

The food waste operation is in the start-up phase, offering pilot programs in local schools, and food waste pickup from some restaurants and community collection sites. Robbette Schmit of Winton MFG says that food waste processing starts later this summer from Cashmere to Lake Wenatchee and should be extended to Wenatchee/East Wenatchee in the fall. Winton MFG has partnered with Waste Loop to provide education and outreach in the community, for example working with businesses to streamline organics recycling for their specific needs. The goal is to provide sustainability metrics and organic waste diversion data so that program participants know how well they are contributing to a more sustainable environment. Check out their website to learn more.

It is exciting that our region may soon have a commercial food waste processing option! I think it is long overdue, because reducing food waste and creating compost with it will reduce heat-trapping methane emissions. In fact, our Washington State legislature agrees. On March 25th this year, House Bill 1799 was signed into law. HB1799 supports the diversion from landfills of organic materials (i.e. food and yard waste), by reducing volume through compost programs, and by managing, incentivizing, and regulating organic wastes. This includes reducing legal liability risk barriers to the donation of edible foods to encourage food recovery, such as in groceries and restaurants. Starting in larger cities (25,000 population plus), separated organic material collection services will be required by 2027, think food waste bins like garbage bins, and larger businesses will be required to manage their organic waste in ways that do not include landfilling them. There are also economic incentives for composting and efforts to improve labeling of plastic and compostable products (hooray!) to reduce contamination of waste streams handled by organic material management facilities. By the way, don’t forget to use Sustainable NCW’s Waste Wizard online search engine to reduce recycling stream contamination by learning where you can successfully recycle or repurpose all sorts of things.

Hope on the horizon in a very hot summer!

WVC students doing a food waste audit for Earth Day 2022

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