I am a youth intern for Sustainable Fairfax. Recently I have worked on the Town of Fairfax’s zero waste initiative. Fairfax has a goal to divert 94% of the waste from landfill by 2020, five years ahead of Marin County. Keeping food waste out of the landfill is vital in order for Fairfax to reach that goal, considering food waste makes up 30% of landfill waste. Decomposing food in the landfill generates large amounts of methane, which is21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Globally, 50-70 million tonnes of methaneis produced from the landfill each year; this is a significant amount we can decrease.

Marin Sanitary Service has been working with the Town of Fairfax and Sustainable Fairfax to tackle the food waste problem at the commercial and residential levels. Thanks to Kim Scheibly of Marin Sanitary I received insider information about services they provide for businesses and residents to reduce landfill waste.

Businesses: Ms. Scheibly explained how businesses can decrease the food waste sent to landfill by participating in the Food 2 Energy program which uses a bio-digester to convert food waste to energy. The biofuel produced goes to powering the wastewater management services provided by the Central Marin Sanitation Agency. Food 2 Energy is paid for by business customers based on the size of their bin and number of collections, just like garbage. However, the cost for the Food 2 Energy collection service is over 50% less than the cost of the garbage service. This program is very popular with Fairfax businesses and has received positive feedback. So far Fairfax’s Mana Bowl, Peri’s, Cafe Lotus, Miyoko’s Kitchen, Sorella Cafe, Grilly’s, Red Boy Pizza, Coffee Roastery, Hummingbird, Taste Kitchen and Table and Ghiringhellis Pizza have committed to this sustainable initiative. According to Ms. Scheibly, there has been positive feedback from all of the business customers.

Residents: Food 2 Energy cannot be used on a residential scale because it is easily contaminated, but Fairfax residents interested in diverting their food waste from landfill can use the curbside composting service supplied by Marin Sanitary. Ms. Scheibly informed me that they switched compost facilities from Northern Recycling Compost in the East Bay to Redwood Landfill in Novato which recently expanded its composting operations. This allows Marin Sanitary to increase efficiencies and save money and fossil fuel on food waste transportation. The residential curbside composting works best for methane reduction when yard waste and food are mixed because the yard waste absorbs the methane from the food waste. This also solves some of the issues of odor and what many refer to as the “ick factor.”

As a bonus, Fairfax residents participating in curbside composting can save money on their garbage bill by converting to a smaller landfill cart. Residents also benefit from the free compost deliveries made by Marin Sanitary to the Fairfax Pavilion parking lot several times a year pursuant to the franchise agreement with the Town; sign up for the Sustainable Fairfax e-newsletter to be notified of these deliveries. There has been success with this diversion strategy according to Ms. Scheibly who reported many residents converting from 64 gallon to 32 gallon landfill containers. Twenty gallon landfill carts are also available.

It is important to note that all food items should be disposed of in the green cart, including meat, bones, and dairy products. The high temperature used in commercial composting allows these materials to break down quickly, unlike the process for backyard composting. Soiled paper, pizza boxes, napkins and paper towels can also go in the green bins. Unfortunately compostable plastics must be disposed of in your landfill cart, because these materials do not break down fast enough for commercial compost in Marin.

Marin Sanitary is currently working to expand multi-family curbside composting. I worked with Sustainable Fairfax on outreach to multi-family homes. The feedback and data collected ensured the system was working and we received positive feedback from all of the apartment complexes we visited. Marin Sanitary and Sustainable Fairfax continue to do outreach to educate residents about composting to help reach Fairfax’s diversion goal.

We all know climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face as a society. Future generations will be affected by the progress we make today, and by working together we can ensure a safer, cleaner environment. Residents and business owners can take significant action against climate change through diversion of food waste from the landfill. For more information, visit http://marinsanitaryservice.com or write to Sustainable Fairfax at SustainFX@gmail.com