Summer Tips for Food Composting at Home

By Napa Waste Prevention Specialist Kendra Bruno

What’s hotter than Napa’s recent summer heat or those fidget spinners? Composting. And it has never been easier to do before in the City of Napa then it is now. Instead of putting all those food scraps and soiled paper (napkins, paper towels, tissues, etc.) into your landfill/trash can in the kitchen, collect them in a different container and then dispose of them in your (residential) brown cart.

Sounds easy, right?

And yet, even with compost being so hot right now, I have met quite a few people in Napa who say they do not compost. Which left me wondering -- why? Thus began my journey of asking almost everyone I interacted with as a City official (and if I am being honest with you, in my regular social gatherings as well) if they composted and if not – why? I also put out a call on my (personal) Facebook page and asked a variety of co-workers from different departments for their concerns composting. Here are some of the reasons (followed by my solutions) below:

Concern #1: It’s going to attract rodents.
Answer #1: Remember, you are generating the same amount and type of materials as before, but you are just putting them into a different container. As long as you empty out your inside compost container the same frequency you were emptying out your trash – you should not need to worry about rodents.

Concern #2: I used the container you (NRWS/City of Napa) gave me and after a few uses, it was gross inside!
Answer #2: There are a couple solutions to keep your kitchen compost pail clean and not “gross.” First, make sure to empty your compost pail every few days – especially if you are filling it with fresh vegetables and fruits scraps (which decompose quickly). The kitchen pails the City of Napa gave out are dishwasher safe with a removable lid, so run it through the dishwasher when needed. Second, use shredded newspaper or soiled tissues/paper towels as a “bedding” for the bottom of your kitchen pail. Our foods have more moisture than you realize and it is primarily the liquids from your “wet” foods that cause odors and accelerate the decomposition process. Lining the bottom of your pail is a quick, easy and effective way to minimize the “gross” factor and keep odors down too! Third, consider purchasing the certified compostable bag liners. Relatively inexpensive and able to be composted in our commercial facility, they ensure a clean compost pail! You can find them at Ben & Jerry’s, Home Depot, Whole Foods and more. Check out NapaRecycling.com for a full list of locations and helpful tips for composting.

Concern #3: Whenever I put my food scraps in my brown cart, it seems to attract gnats or bugs.
Answer #3: There is a bunch of answers for this problem. One is to make sure your cart is kept in the shade and not in direct sunlight. Second, try using those compostable bags we talked about earlier – a compostable bag will help reduce any odor and the attraction of bugs. Third, add some leafy greens (if you have any) or some cardboard or shredded paper (from the office) to help with the quick decomposition of food. Consider requesting a 35-gallon brown residential compost cart, in addition to (or instead of) the current 95 gallon compost cart you have from Napa Recycling & Waste Services (remember: you can have up to two brown carts, free of charge). The smaller cart is easier to clean and if you do not have any yard waste allows for easy disposal. Lastly, consider adding some rosemary, tea tree oil, or baking soda intermittently. By diverting all your compost into the proper bin, you will reduce your landfill/trash hugely – to the point where you may be able to reduce your outside landfill bin (and have some financial savings).

Since the introduction of food composting in residential brown compost carts, NRWS and the City of Napa saw on average a 13% decrease in trash/landfill tonnage in 2015 and 2016! That equates to approximately 150 tons/month less of organics going to the landfill!

What does that means to you? It means 1,800 tons annually of organic materials did not decompose without oxygen in our landfill and create carbon dioxide and methane gas (one of the most potent greenhouse gases) – which also equals taking 343 cars off the road a month or 4,107 cars off the road a year!

Additionally, it means you are giving your food another life – compost! And that compost is purchased by local landscapers, vineyards, and your neighbor for their garden. Remember, in the City of Napa you can put all food (including meats, bones, dairy, shells, etc), soiled paper (napkins with food or cleaning solution, parchment paper, etc) and yard trimmings in your brown residential curbside cart from NRWS. A full list and printable poster is available at here. Note: backyard composting should not have meat or dairy included in it (interested in learning more) Happy Composting!

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