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TBB Climateers Host Presentation on Composting

by Rachel Schwarz

June 23, 2022 the TBB Climateers presented a program on composting. Presenters Aaron Chisom of Bootstrap Compost and Kirstie Pecci  of Conservation Law Foundation focused on composting, waste reduction and reasons why it is crucial to engage with these activities. We learned a lot on this very important and interesting topic.

Here are some takeaways:

One third of all the waste that is produced comes from food and yard waste.

Compost is an important organic fertilizer for our soil. Without a healthy topsoil, our ability to grow food is compromised. If the degradation of topsoil continues at the current rate, in just 60 years all the topsoil of the world could be gone.

Composted aerobically*, our kitchen waste can give back to the soil what is taken out through food production.

Food that is thrown out with the garbage ends up taking up space in landfills, where its decomposition creates methane gas, contributing to climate change, as well as toxic run off called leachate* which can contaminate ground water.

Some cities, including Cambridge, have started to divert kitchen waste to anaerobic* digesters, where most of the methane produced is captured and used as renewable energy. However, the food scraps in this process are mixed with sewage sludge. The leftover product may be referred to as “compost” but is in fact a toxic product. Sewage waste contains many chemicals that cannot be removed, so the compost obtained through this anaerobic* method is laden with forever chemicals, including PFAS which are toxic even in minuscule amounts.

An article in the Boston Globe on July 7, 2022, “From an Organic Dream to a Toxic Nightmare,” exemplified this very situation. The ground water in Westminster, MA became contaminated, which was attributed to PFAS in the compost created at Mass Natural facility.

We do have a Department of Environmental Protection regulation mandating that any organization that produces half a ton of food waste must divert it from waste disposal. While this is positive, it is crucial that we also allocate space for composting so that our kitchen waste can enrich our soil without the presence of toxins. Municipal composting programs are considered to be safer than industrial ones since they are untainted by sewage materials.

The TBB  Climateers are engaged in advocating for municipal composting in Somerville, among other environmental activities.

If you have any interest joining the Climateers, please contact Marya Axner. There is a wide range of environmental issues that need tackling. We would love to enlarge our team as our environment, the planet that sustains us, urgently needs our help.


Aerobic composting- decomposition of organic matter by microorganisms that require oxygen.

Anaerobic composting- decomposition of organic matter by microorganisms which do not require oxygen to survive. In an anaerobic system, the majority of the chemical energy contained within the starting material is released as methane.

Leachate- any contaminated liquid generated by water percolating through a solid waste disposal site, accumulating contaminants and moving into subsurface areas.

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784