Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Composting at the office turns would-be waste into valuable product

By Michelle Andrews, organics specialist, and Erika Holmes, communications

Food is the largest component of our garbage by weight, at 17 percent in Washington and 21 percent nationwide. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about 40 percent of the food grown in the United States isn’t eaten. Meanwhile, about 15 percent of our population doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

One way Ecology is working on this problem is by composting food scraps at our offices. Composting provides a valuable product that improves soil health. We’re sharing various ways we compost at different offices to inspire food-waste prevention efforts at your workplace.


The cafeteria and kitchenettes in our Lacey office have bins to collect food scraps. These bins are emptied nightly into two Earth Tubs that compost 125 pounds of food and paper towels each day. Since 2005, over 100 tons have been composted into 81 cubic yards of compost, resulting in less organic debris going to landfills, lower disposal costs, and lower landfill methane gas production!

But what do we do with all that nutrient-rich compost at the Lacey office? Volunteers use it to enrich the soil of the Thurston County Food Bank garden we host on campus. Just last year, volunteers from Ecology and the community harvested 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables for the food bank. We have high hopes for totals this year, as volunteers have logged over 200 hours in the garden. In total, Ecology’s garden has grown over 5,000 pounds of produce that has been donated to hungry community members.


Staff at our Spokane office collect organic material to recycle in a vermicomposting (composting with worms) unit called the Worm Wigwam. This system is capable of composting 7 to 14 pounds of material per day. The soil is used on the grounds and landscaping surrounding the Spokane office, for employees' potted plants, or for donation.


The Bellevue office hosts a team of volunteers who collect food waste from the break rooms and lunch room to vermicompost it in bins next to the parking lot. This onsite system saves Ecology approximately $700 per year from the cost of offsite composting services. We’ve recently had some folks from a neighboring office building divert food using our bins, and they share in the labor to maintain them.


Each week, a group of Ecology employees at the Yakima office volunteer to take food scraps from the kitchen area and add them to their home compost piles. The compost buckets in their kitchen areas have tight lids for holding the food scraps for as long as a week without creating odor issues. This voluntary system diverts around five pounds of food waste from the dumpster each week.

Bellingham & Vancouver

Composting food onsite isn’t always an option. Our Bellingham and Vancouver offices have curbside collection for offsite composting of discarded food.

We can help you compost at the office (or home)

We hope that by sharing ways our offices are reducing food waste by composting, you might be inspired to do it yourself.

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