Businesses in Snoqualmie are going green. The city has teamed up with Waste Management to encourage local businesses to compost.
A compost campaign is underway, which includes outreach and providing support services to local businesses. The city and Waste Management (WM) are offering a limited time assistance program through the end of the calendar year.
Incentives for businesses to enroll include free indoor and countertop collection bins, free compost bags, and staff training on composting and compostable serviceware — such as compostable to-go boxes, straws and disposable silverware.
Several businesses in Snoqualmie already compost, such as Down to Earth Flowers & Gifts and Heirloom Cookshop. Some businesses have joined up since the launch of the compost campaign, including Sigillo Cellars, Snoqualmie Falls Candy Shoppe, and Lorenzo’s Pizza and More.
City community development senior planner Nicole Sanders said the goal is to get 10 or 15 businesses to enroll with WM for composting services by the end of the year. Outreach will continue to take place until then.
Sanders said the city was approached by WM last year. She said the county provides WM grants to jurisdictions, and WM asked if the city had plans for those funds. The city also had plans, she said, mostly directing the money toward events for items that are challenging to recycle — styrofoams or electronics, for example — and some environmental sustainability initiatives.
She said the city is aware that solid waste is a major problem, as well as landfill space. Sanders explained it’s important to her to be encouraging people to compost, and not use non-biodegradable single use food containers and silverware, and that’s exactly what the city is trying to do.
“Food waste and plastic wastes are passions of mine,” she said.
According to King County’s 2019 Solid Waste Plan, 30 percent of business trash in the county is made up of food scraps and food-soiled paper, which could be converted into healthy soils if not tossed in a landfill. Food waste in landfills breaks down at an unnaturally slow pace. Sanders used an example of some carrots she said were discovered not biodegraded but nearly intact despite having spent 10 years in a landfill.
She explained that food and other biodegradable materials in landfills are not set up to break down as they break down in nature. Rather, they should be sent to a facility that eliminates greenhouse gas emissions.
Organic waste generates methane gas, she explained. King County does have a collection system and burns some of that for energy, transferring it to carbon dioxide. But even with landfill gas collection, she said some emissions sneak around, and methane is powerful — 28 to 36 percent more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
Alternatively, food, napkins and paper towels in a composting facility can become nutrient-rich soil in just 90 days, which can then be used as fertilizer.
“Compost adds nutrients and health to local soils, and helps food we eat to grow healthier,” she said.
Environmental benefits of composting include keeping drinking water systems clean, reducing climate emissions, and keeping food products out of landfills. Compost also absorbs water and reduces runoff, saving water needed to grow plants in gardens and local farms.
Sanders mentioned that the city and WM do accept dairy and meat items in composting, which she said is uncommon. Less sorting means a simpler process.
“All food waste can go into the compost bin,” she said.
Sanders said she emphasizes the importance of compostable, biodegradable food containers and silverware instead of plastic and non-biodegradable options. Plastic does not break down in nature and there are essentially no micro organisms that eat plastic, she said.
Plastics get into the ecosystem in tiny bits, are eaten by animals and enter into the food chain. Thus, humans end up consuming micro plastics.
“Using something that doesn’t break down for a one time use like a food container doesn’t make sense. We don’t want to be eating food that’s eating plastic,” she said. “Personally I think that biodegradable food containers are better for the environment and way better for our health as human beings.”
She said in King County there tends to be decent recycling outreach but she doesn’t think there’s as much known or understood about composting practices.
“I think the composting programs are kind of on the rise. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said. “I think it’s really great that Waste Management is really honestly taking a step forward on that.”
Sanders’ role was working with WM to refine the plan and then helping to introduce the idea to the city. Once the city approved it, she also helped with business outreach. She has been visiting businesses with WM and communicating information and the importance of composting.
Four businesses have joined so far, and they hope to get about 10 to 15 by the end of the year.
“It’s exciting. I’m hoping more of them will take notice and see it’s an easy opportunity for them to be greener for their customers and for themselves,” she said.
She encourages residents to ask businesses if they compost or would consider composting.
“I think sometimes it’s hard for people to figure out ways to help their community be green. It can be a little intimidating to take that outside the home,” she said. “Having that simple conversation lets their businesses know that they care, and businesses care what their customers care about.”
Lorenzo’s Pizza and More is one of the local businesses that just enrolled. Victor Enlow, manager and part owner, said he thinks it will be simple to implement composting into their workflow.
“I don’t think it’ll be very hard,” he said. “It’s really not that much harder to throw it in a different bin than another.”
He also said he’s surprised more businesses in the area aren’t already composting and that he and his team are all for it. He said slight challenges may come with discerning whether some of the trickier items are actually compostable.
“I think we’ll acclimate just fine,” he said, noting that these efforts are important.
Enrolling in the composting program is purchasing a service — it means signing up for compost collection along with other waste collection such as garbage and recycling services.
Businesses can learn more or sign up by emailing Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.