Ever wonder what composting has to do with reducing waste and lowering our greenhouse gas emissions? The National Resources Defense Council estimates that roughly 40% of all food in America ends up as waste -- that works out to more than 20 pounds of food waste per person each month! When that food waste ends up buried in landfills it decomposes anaerobically, that is, without access to oxygen. This decomposition process produces an excess of methane gas, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that traps the sun’s heat in the lower atmosphere and contributes to climate change. When we compost our food scraps we are diverting waste away from landfills and allowing it to decompose aerobically (with oxygen), preventing the production of methane altogether.
So at this point you’re probably thinking composting sounds great, but how on earth do you compost when you live in an apartment or condo with little-to-no yard space? This is our cue to remind you of Project Oscar - Boston's very own community composting program!
Project Oscar, affectionately named after the Sesame Street character, was piloted last year with a pair of community compost bins in East Boston and the North End. In just the past nine weeks, Project Oscar has diverted 5250 pounds of food waste from landfills! Project Oscar accepts a huge variety of compostable materials in the bins including: fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, napkins and paper towels, rice, pasta, bread, cut and dried flowers, compostable bags and compostable take-out containers. Project Oscar does not accept meat, fish, cheese, oils, pet waste, charcoal, and Styrofoam. These should be disposed of in your regular trash bin, and glass and non-compostable plastic should go into the recycling stream.
In order to join the compost program, we ask you to take a very short, 9-question, educational quiz specific to the location you would like to use (linked here: East Boston or North End). Completion of the quiz grants you the access code for the bins so that you can start composting! Project Oscar participants use containers or compostable bags in their kitchen to collect scraps until they are ready to visit the community bin. You can even freeze your food scraps in a sealed bag or container if you know it’s going to be several days before you get a chance to drop them off.
And now, we can hardly contain our excitement in announcing that we will be expanding the program this fall with three new locations in Dorchester, Brighton and Jamaica Plain. Stay tuned for the official announcement!
Whether you’re participating in the Greenovate Boston #30DayCarbonChallenge (sign up here), or you’re just looking for a way to turn kitchen waste into a valuable, reusable resource, Project Oscar is a fun, easy way to join a community effort to reduce landfill waste throughout the city. We hope to see you at the bins!
**This blog post is written by Caroline Sluyter. Caroline is a 2015 UNH Sustainability Institute Climate Fellow working with the City of Boston’s Office of Food Initiatives and Greenovate Boston to scale up Project Oscar - the community composting project which was piloted last year as part of the City's Climate Action Plan (specifically on waste reduction planning). Caroline is an M.S. candidate in Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and earned her B.A. in philosophy from Smith College in 2008.