1 ton 1 cubic yard

1 cubic yard of compost to balance the scales

Last week, we suggested every household, facility or city could use one cubic yard of compost for every ton of biodegradable waste it generates, allowing market forces to close the loop on organics recycling instead of laws and mandates.

This week, we’ll help you figure out the quantity of biodegradables you’re contributing to the total waste stream.

Know that these numbers are very rough estimates.  They’ve been pulled from numerous sources, extrapolated from total municipal solids waste (MSW) figures using the 60% organics content rule-of-thumb, and rounded.  But in the absence of a proper waste audit, these should get you into the ballpark for some preliminary pencil-pushing:

  • Biosolids – 64 pounds per person per year (100% compostable) or .03 tons per person per year
  • MSW/College – 31 pounds of biodegradables per pupil per year or about a .02 tons per pupil per year
  • MSW/Hotel – 2,340 pounds of biodegradables per employee per year or 1.17 tons per employee per year
  • MSW/Office building – 406 pounds of biodegradables per employee per year or about .02 tons per employee per year
  • MSW/Household – 942 pounds of biodegradables per person per year or .47 tons per person per year

For a household of four, two cubic yards of compost will balance their two tons of waste generation. That’s  about 54 bags of compost (@ 1 cubic foot/bag) or a couple of loads in a small pick-up truck.  Just buy two or three bags a week through the gardening season and sprinkle on flower beds or rake into the lawn.  Very doable.  Very affordable.  No pain, lots of gain and a balanced sustainability equation.

Of course, as generation volumes go up, so do cubic yards of compost.  A college of 30,000 students, for example, might need to use 1,500 yards of compost to balance the scales.  Fortunately, college campuses tend to have a lot of green space, and if introduced as a phased strategy over a period of years, sustainability goals can be met while reaping the horticultural and economic benefits of compost use.