City/county program makes composting fun |

City/county program makes composting fun

Doug Oliver moves piles of compost around at the Pitkin County landfill with a bulldozer Nov. 27.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Last month, I wrote a story for The Aspen Times about the success of the composting program at the Pitkin County Landfill.

At the end of my visit to the facility, Liz Mauro — the landfill’s environmental compliance specialist — asked if AT photographer Anna Stonehouse and I would be interested in composting. We looked at each other, shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”

I opted for a small, plastic tub that sits on my kitchen counter, while Anna decided on the larger 6.5-gallon plastic bucket. Both items are available free of charge at the landfill for county residents and at the environmental health department on the second floor of Aspen City Hall for city residents.

Mauro supplied me with a handful of compostable bags for my countertop compost bin and instructions for what can and cannot be composted.

It’s been about a month now, and I’ve been surprised at how much I’m enjoying composting. I know that sounds weird, so let me explain.

First, it’s great to see how much food waste you can keep out of the landfill with very little effort. Seriously, it’s a lot, even for a single person. And unlike single-stream recycling of plastic, metal and glass — which may or may not actually be eventually recycled in China or Bangladesh or the Pacific Ocean — I know my compost will not be thrown into Pitkin County’s or any other landfill.

That’s because I’ve seen the steaming piles of compost at our landfill with my own eyes. The difference I’m making is not theoretical. My egg shells, coffee grounds and chicken bones are being turned into a cash crop that made the landfill more than $370,000 last year and extended the dump’s lifetime. Once the landfill is full, it’s highly unlikely that an alternative location in the valley can be found.

Second, it’s forced me to focus on what I do throw in the landfill. Specifically, I’ve begun to notice how much plastic packaging and waste is produced by our society and casually discarded to live hundreds more years out of sight and out of mind. More shocking is trying to avoid plastic. You can’t. It’s everywhere.

Third, as a single person who does not generate a ton of trash, it’s nice to have a garbage can that doesn’t continually stink up my apartment while I wait for the plastic garbage bag to fill up.

The residential composting program — known as SCRAPS — does cost a bit of money per month because residents must pay a waste hauler to come pick up the material. Some places — like the Hunter Creek Apartments — have large bins in the garbage area for the compost that make participating in the program even easier.

And while no one wants another bill, most people I’ve talked to who compost feel the small expense is worth it, especially when the difference you make is quantifiable and right here in your own backyard.

Finally, most places in this country don’t have the option of a residential composting program like SCRAPS, which is a joint program between the landfill and the city of Aspen.

For example, I was visiting family in Tucson, Arizona, for Christmas and discovered that while the city does offer composting for commercial entities like restaurants and grocery stores, residential composting was not available unless you want to do it all on your own.

So my hat’s off to the city and county for creating such a forward-thinking program. It’s easy to do, inexpensive and kind of fun. For more information, go to


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