Accountability at Scraps Denver Composting

In response to our committee’s interest in accountability for proper disposal of compost materials at Scraps Denver, Christi Turner provided the following:

“You can tract the progress of Scraps Denver on the Scraps report card page,  This page has a running total of how much we’ve collected, which equals how much is sent out to Keenesburg / A1 Organics. I don’t weigh every pickup at EH, but I weigh the total of every route and can do a sample weighing of your EH total and then give you an estimate of how much you’ve diverted from the landfill since we started composting. I estimate it’s about 50-60 pounds per pickup – lots!

As far as “intrigue,” or possible misdirection of compost material, it’s actually a LOT less likely that compost doesn’t end up at A1, than, say, the recycling doesn’t get mixed with the trash. We do our best to maintain a “clean stream” – meaning, no contamination from non-compostable stuff in the compost – which we do by providing training, education and ongoing support and encouragement to our customers. (Our customers, like you all, in turn, have a direct investment in composting and incentive to do it right!) And our “dropoff partner” compost dumpsters/large bins are all locked. Unless the dumpster is contaminated by an outsider (say, the bin accidentally is left unlocked and someone dumps their trash, or the Business Improvement District in LoDo unlocks the bin and dumps their alley trash inside, including used needles – I watched them do this two weekends ago and we had to trash an entire load of compost!), then it all goes to A1 Organics. There’s a stiff fine for contamination (from Alpine, who hauls it to A1, and from A1, to their haulers). With recycling, it’s a lot different. Most of the time, when recycling is mixed into the trash, it’s because the stream isn’t clean. And here in Denver, people are REALLY bad at recycling correctly (and I think a lot of people just sort of say to themselves, “I hope this is recyclable!”, and toss it in the bin). I spend every single day “fixing” what I see in my own trash room – i.e., pulling plastic bags, food, wood, steel, furniture, clothing, etc. out of the recycle bin, and of course breaking down lazy people’s boxes – and the city is also REALLY bad at educating people on what’s recyclable and what’s not, and how much harm is done at the recycling facility when the stream is contaminated. Basically, when it’s too mixed up, the haulers will just trash it (that way they aren’t turned away and/or fined at the recycling facility and waste money/time; a heavily contaminated stream “shuts down the line,” because the people and machines that sort our recycling can’t work fast enough to sort it properly, and plastic bags get caught in gears and have to be manually yanked out every few hours when contamination is really high). There are certainly some haulers that mix the recycling into the trash on occasion even when there isn’t high contamination, and that’s absolutely not allowed – and depending on your contract with your hauler, it’s grounds for immediate termination of your contract with them.

(I highly recommend a field trip to the Alpine Waste recycling facility to see first-hand what I’m referring to above! And we’d be more than happy to do a “recycling 101″ with you all, if that’s ever interesting!)”