Composting household kitchen waste is among the easiest of the so-called green measures that ordinary citizens can undertake, and it requires the least investment of time and cash. For East Hampton residents, there is an added incentive — helping the town save money. Gardeners have long known the advantages of compost as a soil conditioner and source of nutrients for vegetables and flowers, but there is a compelling dollars-and-cents reason why more of us should compost.
Estimates are that American households throw away about 470 pounds of food waste each year, whether scraps after meals, wilted produce, or outdated pantry items. Unfortunately, every single bit of East Hampton’s trash is trucked off Long Island at considerable cost, which makes any excess expensive. Through the first half of 2011, the town spent just under $450,000 to haul away what is termed mixed solid waste. A considerable portion of it could have been composted.
The town had tried municipal composting. Residents and commercial carting companies were supposed to separate their garbage, but the experiment was a failure. Since then, some households have picked up the slack, but more should be doing so. The town pays about $83 a ton to send waste to distant landfills. Even acting alone, a single household that takes up composting would help cut the expense. If everyone did it, the savings would be significant.
Figures vary, but by conservative estimates, 40 percent of the garbage in the United States could be reclaimed by composting. That means East Hampton’s roughly 5,300 tons of outgoing trash through the first half of the year could have been cut to about 3,200 tons — with savings to taxpayers of more than $175,000.