Natural Recycling: Composting Your Food Waste

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Compost image

After you separate regular recyclables from your trash, what’s left?

Much of our trash is actually food waste, and that, too, can be recycled by turning it into compost. Composting is the way that nature recycles. Whether it’s the food that’s left on a picky eater’s plate, to the science experiment in your crisper drawer, food waste can have a second life.

We’re promoting a pilot program to encourage the growth of local companies that collect food waste (also called organics waste) from homes, events, businesses, etc., and turn it into compost. The compost can then be used as a high-quality soil amendment in residential backyards, farms, and landscaping projects.


Registered Composting Companies

If backyard composting isn’t for you, there are other ways to manage your food scraps. Just as you would contract with a waste hauler for trash and recycling collection service, you can hire a company to collect and compost your food waste! There are two companies in Fairfax County that provide service to customers either as a subscription (they pick up weekly) or for special events such as weddings and conferences. There are currently several companies registered with the county.

While not an endorsement, being listed as a registered food waste composter lets potential customers know that the company’s equipment and operations have been reviewed, and that customers can have confidence that the composter is operating in a safe and sustainable manner, following best practices for safe sanitation and protection of public health. The published list of licensed solid waste collectors is a great place to start.


What You Can Compost

Plenty of natural materials can be composted, including:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and wool Rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes


Backyard Composting

Long the traditional way, backyard composting is certainly another possibility if you have the space. If you live in a homeowner’s association, check any guidelines that may exist before you begin. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.
  • Add brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded.
  • Moisten dry materials as they are added.
  • Once your compost pile is established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material.
  • Optional: Cover top of compost with a tarp to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years.

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