Composting pilot training underway
By Lazo Gitchos
Methow Recycles is expanding its waste management and reduction programs this summer, with a new guide on living a low-waste life, an expanded Share Library (formerly Tool Library) and a new household composting pilot program.
Executive Director Sarah Jo Lightner says these efforts are a part of waste reduction movements gaining traction across Washington, and that Methow Recycles is responding proactively to changing waste management legislation at the state level.
The nonprofit also continues to operate popular repair programs including the ReMake Center and Repair Cafes, as well as pop-up repair events throughout the valley.
With information on waste reduction and a comprehensive resource guide for households looking to reduce their waste footprint, Methow Recycles’ new guide “Living a Low-Waste Life” aims to “move our community past recycling and into the broader world of reducing waste.”
Beyond “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” the guide adds “Repair” and “Rot” (compost), and encourages readers to make choices based on “zero-waste” principles, such as borrowing or renting equipment, buying second-hand, and repairing broken stuff instead of throwing it away.
But, the guide acknowledges, eliminating waste is about more than individual choice. It encourages readers to “think of zero-waste as an aspirational goal,” a reminder to make waste-reducing choices when possible.
The guide is available at methowrecycles.org/recycling/low-waste-living-guide or in print at the Recycling Center in Twisp.
Compost Pilot Program
In June, Methow Recycles launched a household compost pilot program that provides an opportunity for valley residents to reduce their share of landfill food waste. Organic waste in landfills is one of the largest global emitters of Methane, which constitutes nearly 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions according to the EPA.
“Our waste is hyper-local,” Lightner said, and by diverting food waste to a local compost program, “our food waste becomes an asset to us.”
The program provides training, 2-gallon collection pails, and drop off opportunities to households throughout the Methow. Compost is transported to local small-scale commercial composting facility B2G Compost, which began operation last year.
By partnering with B2G to offer residential composting, Methow Recycles hopes to follow the formula that helped make recycling so widespread in the Methow; teaching community members how to get involved.
Like recycling, Lightner said, industrial composting can be complicated by contamination; improperly composted items can hamper B2G’s ability to make good compost that can be put back into the soil.
In 2021, Washington passed the Organics Management Act, which requires a 20% reduction in edible food waste going to Washington landfills by 2025. That’s a total reduction of 78,000 tons of waste, according to compostwashington.org. Methow Recycles Communications Director Aspen Kvicala said that soon, “composting will be the law, so we’re trying to get out ahead of that.”
Get involved in composting
To bring community members on board, Methow Recycles is opening the compost pilot program to valley residents who have attended a free training session. Three trainings will be available in Twisp, Winthrop and Mazama in August. (See training sessions information in sidebar.)
In order to take part in the pilot program, at least one member of each participating household must attend a training session, which will include information on what can and cannot be composted through Methow Recycles, how to store compost at home, when and where to drop off compost, and how users can access the processed compost for home and garden use.
The training will also include information about the biology and chemistry of compost. Methow Recycles hopes to open the program to all community members through further education and outreach.
The compost pilot program is a step toward a circular food system in which organic waste becomes a local asset, Lightner says, an important feature of a resilient community.
Washington’s state legislature did not adopt Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the 2023 legislative season, but Lightner says the legislation is likely to be reintroduced next year. EPR means producers of packaging, even recyclable packaging, are responsible for the cost of transporting, processing, and disposing of waste generated by their products from “cradle to grave.”
This would be a dramatic change from Washington’s current reality of consumer responsibility. Only four U.S. states have adopted EPR, but Lightner says Washington may be next.
To prepare for producers of plastic packaging taking responsibility for the associated waste, Methow Recycles is bolstering its programs outside of the Recycling Center. Lightner says the nonprofit is partnering with other organizations including TwispWorks, recipient of a Washington State Department of Commerce grant, and conducting a study on the feasibility of starting a zero-waste community center to house programs like its Share Library, ReMake Center, and Repair Cafes. Information about repair events and the Share Library can be found at methowrecycles.org/programs.
At a recent Repair Cafe event, hosted by Methow Recycles at The Cove food bank in Twisp, volunteer fixer Eliot Johnson peered inside the bottom of a troubled rice cooker. A regular volunteer at the monthly community repair events, Johnson helps participants fix a wide range of household devices.
Johnson said he’d be bringing the rice cooker, brought in by a community member, back to his house to replace some capacitors in the circuit board that he thought may have been to blame for its current status as a paperweight.
Many would have given up on the appliance by now, but he was determined by curiosity and know-how to keep it out of the waste stream. “Recycling is nice,” he said, “but it’s nicer to put something right back to use.”
• Monday, Aug. 21, at the Twisp Valley Grange, 6-8 p.m.
• Tuesday, Aug. 22, at the Winthrop library from 6-8 p.m.
• Wednesday, Aug. 23, at the Mazama Community Club from 6-8 p.m.
For more information, visit www.methowrecycles.org.