Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Composting In The Kitchen

Last summer, my home town of Burnaby added food scrap pickup to its recycling programme.  About  half of our household garbage is some form of food scrap or paper product that has been soiled by food (and thus, not recyclable with the paper) . By composting these material, the city produces a valuable resource, diverts waste, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

After eight months of this programme I am amazed at how much our habits in the kitchen have changed.  We were avid recyclers before so we already didn't produce a lot of garbage.  But now that we can compost, our trash bin takes even longer to fill.  We regularly put out a bin that's only half full, and often skip a week of garbage pick-up.

This change in habits started me thinking about what sort of impact this could have on how I design kitchens.  I've already seen a marked increase in the number of requests I have for recycling centres in the kitchen.  Will I start receiving requests for composting in the kitchen or at the very least, containers for compost?
Compost containers already exist.  Suppliers like Richelieu already have many accessories that will allow you to meet your composting needs.  The majority of these come in the form of pull-out containers that you simple remove to take to your compost bin.  Because they're small, the assumption is you'll empty them frequently so smell, the biggest downside to composting, is not really an issue.
There's also the countertop option that allows you to simply sweep your food scraps into a hole in the countertop and into a container hidden in the cabinetry below.
These options are all well and fine for people who have some sort of composting system in place.  But what about people without a city composting programme or who live in apartments or condos where pick up isn't offered? (Burnaby is currently running a Multi-Family Food Scraps Recycling pilot project).  There are many "apartment friendly" composting options out there, but the one I liked best is offered in Vancouver through City Farmer.  The box (about $25) is about 36"w x 36"d x 24"h, includes a one hour course on composting and 500 hungry worms.  Yes, worms.  These little guys are the secret to keeping the smell out of all that rotting food waste, which makes this a very viable option for an apartment kitchen.

There is of course some extra work involved here; definitely more than just running the scraps down to my garden waste bin.  But recycling was an inconvenience when it first started, and we've managed to integrate that into our daily routines.  Adding composting, or food scrap management to our lives will just take a little planning, but the results will be worth it.


Brenda Lynn said...

What a great idea for your city to do the compost thing! Hopefully other places will jump on the bandwagon, soon. Thanks for showing the great options for composting containers in cabinets.

Brenda Lynn

Arne Salvesen said...

I hope you're right Brenda. I'm always surprised when I go to places like ... oh I don't know ... Las Vegas (thinking KBIS) ... and there are no recycling facilities anywhere. Just seems kinda weird and makes me realize how fortunate we are to live here.

Becky / @ecomod said...

Composting products & design are one of the main things I'm going to KBIS for! Hope they don't fall short.

3 of my clients in the past year have requested I design in a composting zone and/or a worm bin area in their new kitchens!

I'm with Brenda - thanks for showing the options.

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