Big news with Cedar Grove now composting restaurant "single service" utensils and packaging waste from around 1,700 Seattle establishments --the half who have signed up for collection in response to the new law banning conventional, "throwaway service ware".
As reported in the Seattle Times today, the magnitude of organic material that will be diverted from Eastern Oregon landfill is estimated at 6,000 tons (in what timeframe?). But does the story stop there with a happy, compost-rich ending? Rather, I fear the story of our best-intended compost seems to get caught in traffic--up to 150 trucks a day schlepping up and down Interstate 5 from Seattle to Everett (26 miles from my mid-seattle home to their North end facility) or to Maple Valley (20 miles)! And put aside, for a moment, the return trips the compost makes (in non-recyclable plastic sacks) after that careful, family-run cooking of the piles to nobly nourish and reduce watering of so many of our gardens, parks and other Puget Lowland landscapes.
What seems to be missing is the (post-food miles) math of composting VMT, and how a shorter, tighter cycle between "waste generators" and the ultimate compost deposit locations. This question is precisely among those we are parsing as part of our Fertile Grounds urban food utility investigation. In that inquiry, we are asking not just about urban food production niches, but the wider web of resource flows, their transport impacts, possibilities to "accelerate serendipity" (credit: Office Nomads) of ecosystem services, and opportunities for community-building and cultural expression.