Other Voices

Fort Worth composting program: how your handling of table scraps can help environment

A student prepares to deposit his paper lunch tray into the compost bin, the last stop for anything that isn’t trash or recyclable. Students at North Hi Mount Elementary School in Fort Worth are taking part in the Share Table Project.
A student prepares to deposit his paper lunch tray into the compost bin, the last stop for anything that isn’t trash or recyclable. Students at North Hi Mount Elementary School in Fort Worth are taking part in the Share Table Project. Special to the Star-Telegram

Twenty-seven years ago, the city of Fort Worth implemented the state’s first citywide curbside recycling program.

As one who was integrally involved, I can tell you it was a long and arduous process.

Today we in Fort Worth are so fortunate to have a group of forward-thinking professionals who are hard at work to do the right thing by the citizenry and the environment by implementing prudent solid waste management practices.

Before focusing on the newest of these programs for diverting waste from landfills, I’d like to take a moment to address the concerns you may have read about in recent weeks regarding the state of recycling programs.

Lagging commodity markets recently have been problematic for recycling programs across the country. Coupled with the problem of contamination of materials collected for recycling, we have a recipe for difficult times ahead for curbside collection of recyclables.

The most constructive thing you can do is to re-educate yourself on the details of Fort Worth’s recycling program by going to www.fortworthtexas.gov/solidwaste/recycling. Moreover, before you toss any item into your recycling cart, ask yourself, “Am I certain this is recyclable in Fort Worth’s program?” If not, throw it out. Better to have something landfilled than to contaminate an entire load of materials.

As for the exciting new program for residents of Fort Worth — the collection and composting of household organics — to get started, you will need to go to fortworthtexas.gov/solidwaste/compost to subscribe. Once you have done so, and paid $20, you will receive a starter kit that will include a kitchen countertop pail, a five-gallon sealable bucket, assorted educational materials and a refrigerator magnet showing what can and cannot be composted.

Food scraps can be routinely collected in the countertop pail. When the pail is full, its contents can then be poured into the five-gallon bucket for storage. When the five-gallon bucket is in turn full, you can then take it to one of 10 collection sites located across the city and pour it into one of the lockable compost marked carts.

Subscribers to the pilot program will be given a code to open the lockable carts. Carts will be locked to avoid the contamination of the residential food scraps with extraneous materials.

Why is this important to you, to our community and our environment? Primarily because there is a much higher use for these materials than burying them in landfills.

Moreover, the decomposition of organics in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas which, according to the EPA, is 70 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. At present, landfills are the third-largest source of human-caused greenhouse gases in the U.S.

Writes BioCycle magazine (August 2008): “The only effective method to prevent methane emissions from landfills is to stop biodegradable materials from entering landfills. Composting is thus vital to restoring the environment and our soils and should be front and center in a strategy to protect the climate.”

I am proud of our city for taking this step. Fort Worth will be the first municipality in our metropolitan region to implement a food scrap collection pilot program -- one that will serve as a reference to other cities tackling food waste.

If, like me, you read with alarm the science-based information regarding climate change, and if, like me, you are concerned for the world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren, join me in participating in this vitally important program.

It will call upon you to exert a little extra effort to do so, but think of it this way: It’s an action you can take today that we know will benefit future generations.

Kristi Wiseman was president of Citizens for Curbside Recycling and a member of Fort Worth’s original 20-Year Municipal Solid Waste Plan Committee. A winner of the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, she is a retiree and a concerned citizen and grandmother.
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