Office Building Composting

A co-worker stood at my office door Monday afternoon, "What do I do with these," he asked, an empty cup of yogurt in one hand, crumpled paper napkins in the other. I tapped the cup to be sure it was plastic, resisted disposing of them for him.

The entire office was lost after lunch though. We were in our first day of mandated composting and there were twice as many waste baskets in the kitchen than there had been on Friday; all courtesy of the building management. The new waste baskets were adhered with bumper sticker instructions and there were laminated and illustrated instructions to guide us too, but it was still confusing.

The morning had been a breeze. "Coffee cups go in the compost bin," I told everyone, "lids in the landfill." I got a funny look. "The garbage," I clarified. "Lids in the garbage." We were off to a good and caffeinated start.

Then there was a cereal box that landed in the compost. I took it out and put it in the recycle. An hour later it was back in the compost. I left it but took out a biodegradable spoon and washed it for reuse.

I thought I was five shades of chartreuse buying biodegradable utensils for the office but in the world of composting and recycling they are relegated to the garbage. They don't breakdown in compost and they aren't recyclable either.

"The plastic cup goes in recycling," I told my co-worker. He was licking his biodegradable spoon. "That you can reuse." He looked skeptical. "And the napkins, in the compost."

"This is confusing," he said walking away.

Another co-worker, the one I'd pegged the least likely to compost, told me about his Grandmother's system. He told me about guarding the bucket of food scraps until it was full so he could carry it to the pigs. "I loved it," he said. And then he tossed his coffee grounds in the compost like a pro.

A few more days and everyone on our floor will be a pro too. And the people in the other 25 floors in the building will be pros and our families and friends and people we talk to on the street will become compost pros.

I sent the building management a thank you note. And then I went to see if there any more utensils in the garbage to pull out.

I've got to come up with a better utensil solution.


Kumi said...

Everyone could bring their own utensils! :-) This is great - wish all work places followed suit.

food said...

donate a set or utensils , maybe 3 sets of teaspoons, to your work place. NO ONE throws out steel spoons! I live for the day we et mandated composting. ive only just manged to introduce 'basic' recycling in my work place! a bokashi bucket i have toyed with...but i worry about who will empty it if im every away..oh the office gossip that ould arise! eek

Anonymous said...

I'm a regular recycler/composter and I still get confused myself sometimes as to where everything goes.

For utensils, maybe go to the thrift store and buy a bunch of silverware for the office. You might get stuck washing them at the end of the day, but at least they won't end up in the garbage! (i did that for our house when we had our first big party, now i keep using them over and over.)

T_McLeod said...

I wish I worked in your building. I'm always focused on the coffee waste! I think employees would thrive on this type of option - I may blog on the topic. You've inspired me.

Kale for Sale said...

Kumi - A friend's building began mandated composting a year ago and now our building. It's catching on. - Those cats of yours are beautiful. So nice to have them visit here. Thank you.

food - I don't know what a bokashi bucket is. Sounds much more exotic, a magic spell of sorts, than plain old composting. Do tell.

asonomagarden - Me too. Especially with the bins at the ferry building. They're different colors I'm sure to make it easier but I always have to stop and consider what I'm doing. And it's getting easier.

All three of you have pushed me over the line - I need to buy regular utensils. And surrender that I may have to wash them sometimes. None of which is the end of the world. Thank you.

T McLeod - Blog on! I feed coffee grounds to my worms but even they can only consume a portion of it. The rest goes in the trash. I mean landfill.

Day 3 of mandated composting and the office kitchen garbage is significantly reduced.

Daisy said...

I'd love to "green" my teachers' lounge. Re-usable utensils would be my choice. Buy a big bag at the thrift store, wash them well, and then provide dish soap and dish cloths for keeping them clean.