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Because You Asked

How Common Is Organics Recycling?

By Recyclebank |

Organics recycling programs are becoming more popular. Just don’t put your organic waste in your recycling bin!


Dear Recyclebank,

How common is organics recycling?

-Kathy B., OH


Dear Kathy,


Organic waste refers to any biodegradable item you’re tossing out, like food waste (your leftovers) or yard waste (those leaves you rake up in the fall). Because of its nature, when organic waste is sent to a landfill it creates and releases harmful greenhouse gases. But when organic waste is collected separately of other waste — when it’s not handled as just trash — it can be converted into useful products like compost, a valuable soil amendment, or even renewable energy, without releasing the same types or amounts of harmful gases. The process of collecting organic waste and changing it into something useful is often referred to as organics recycling. Please Note: Organics should always be separated from your other recyclables — don’t put organic waste in your recycling bin!


According to a 2012 Biocycle study, the number of communities with organics collection programs has increased by more than 50%, and there are over 150 communities across 16 states that offer organics collection programs, with California and Washington leading the way. Throughout the U.S., 2.55 million households had organics collection programs available to them in 2012, and that number continues to grow. According to a 2012 EPA report, over 30 million tons of organic waste gets sent to landfills and incinerators each year — so while organics recycling is becoming more popular, there’s still lots of room to expand its reach and impact.


Similar to your standard recycling, organic waste collection methods include curbside pickup programs in some places, and sometimes drop-off programs. Where pickup is available, public or private waste collectors pick up the organics from designated containers placed at residents’ curbs. In the case of drop-off, it is a resident’s responsibility to take the organics to community drop-off sites. Food waste drop-off programs provide a low-cost alternative to curbside collection, and have proven to be quite effective. For instance, in Cambridge, MA, residents can bring food scraps to two drop-off sites, one at the municipal recycling center and the other at a Whole Foods supermarket, thus providing residents options and making organics collection easier on all.


The good news for us consumers is that there are various formal (and informal) ways to get involved in organics recycling and to prevent organic waste from going to landfills. Food waste is arguably the place we can have the greatest impact on reducing organic waste; here are some tip from the EPA to prevent food waste:

  • Buy less, thereby preventing food waste in the first place.
  • Donate unexpired, packaged food you won’t use anymore to those in need.
  • Participate in local organics collection programs if available.
  • Turn food waste into compost in your own backyard or join a local composting program.




What do you do with your organic waste? Share in the comments below!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Nancy B. 5 years ago
    I have an easy idea..instead of bagging leaves and throwing them away..leave them where they fall! They don't harm a thing and it saves on transporting(gas~fumes)..wasted time..and you might even get others to do the same! I have been doing NOTHING with my many leaves for years. I would suggest keeping them out of your pathways though as it can get slippery walking on them depending what climate you live in. If I had a garden I would compost the leaves.
    • lisa l. 4 years ago
      I agree with you but some Hone Owners Associations have sets of rules that require leaf removal and if you don't do it, you can be fined heavily. Always check your HOA Manual to make sure you aren't going to be in violation. If you have a lawnmower that can mulch them for you, you can buy one of those collection bag add-ons to the mower, mow over them, suck them up and then use the mulch to protect any plants or shrubs that need help over-wintering. Also, one could start a compost bin and add food scraps to it. I like the Compost Tumbler machine thinbg for a couple hundred bucks that you just add your compostables and give it a turn with the handle. It has a vent and is good at quickly turning composted yard & food waste into high quality soil. You may have to add some compost starter, but it's worth it to never have to pay for organic compost again! Best wishes!
  • Susie C. 5 years ago
    I put yard waste in a separate bin. It's picked upon a weekly basis by a special truck, then carted off to a special processing facility that turns it back into energy. Food waste from my kitchen goes into a compost bin. Two or three times a year the contents of the compost bin are tilled into my small vegetable garden.
  • Sue C. 5 years ago
    The only organic waste I know of that is part of the curbside pickup is the collection of fall leaves using specific labeled bags for doing so. I think they get turned into mulch which is a beneficial nutrient for gardens.
  • lisa t. 5 years ago
    In our neighborhood, you can pay extra for a yard waste bin. We don't, though. We just take it to the local recycling center every time we clear the yard, since it's on our way to work and school! Also, I compost what I can.
  • Rachael D. 5 years ago
    I compost, but it takes sooooooooooo long. In Michigan we have such a short time where the temperature is high enough to really break down the compost.
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