If you’re a Plano resident looking to go greener in 2023, the city’s new food composting program might be just what you need.
Starting this month, the City of Plano plans to get more residents involved in its composting pilot program, which aims to reduce food waste, enrich local soils, and improve the environment.
The food recycling program is the first of its kind for Plano, which received a solid waste disposal grant in late 2022 through funding from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Texas Environmental Quality Commission.
By launching the project, the city aims not only to reduce the negative impacts associated with food and organic waste, but also to educate residents about the path of food waste from the trash can to landfill, said project leader and spokeswoman Jaime Bretzmann.
“Our goal is to provide coverage and enable residents to make rational decisions,” Bretzmann said of the program, which aims to change people’s attitudes towards food waste as garbage rather than a resource.
She added that the Plano program is one of the few composting initiatives in North Texas and is modeled after the food waste program in Fort Worth. The City of Dallas encourages residents to self-compost, but does not offer a citywide composting service.
“We also hope that having residents collect their food waste will help us better understand how much food ends up in our trash,” she said.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40% of food is thrown away and ends up in landfills in the US. Over time, these landfills produce methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and smog in the air.
Another goal of the composting program is to increase waste redirection and extend the life of local landfills, Bretzmann said.
“Through small changes in our daily lives, we can help maintain the capacity of the landfill and defer millions of dollars in tax costs associated with new landfill infrastructure,” the city’s program website says.
Landfill emissions are only part of the food travel picture. According to the website, in Plano, garbage collection services travel approximately 25 miles to the landfill, which affects air pollution and traffic congestion. Reducing food waste can also help ease local traffic and improve air quality.
As of Tuesday, more than 200 Plano residents have signed up to start collecting their food waste and delivering it to distribution points. The program is still trying to enroll about 275 more people in the Plano area.
In developing the initiative, the city wanted to give residents within a 72-square-mile radius easy and equitable access to composting, Bretzmann said. Organizers have identified eight gathering places located in each of the city’s geographic quadrants for residents of single and multi-family homes.
“Most people who live in apartment buildings don’t have the option of having a compost pile in their backyard, so we wanted to offer that option to them, too,” she said.
Bretzmann said the results of the pilot program will help the city in future efforts to reduce waste. Meanwhile, she said, the composting program will likely encourage participants to act more environmentally conscious in other ways.
“People can do a lot to improve the environment — in terms of recycling, saving water, recycling waste, saving energy,” she said. “I think one decision can spawn another.”
Participation in the pilot program costs $45, a one-time fee that will be used to renew the grant-funded initiative, which expires in mid-June.
After completing the registration form and paying for the subscription, participants can receive a starter kit that includes two food waste bins, composting information, and a coupon for a free bag of compost. Welcome kits are available at 4200 West Plano Parkway in Plano from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.
The addresses of eight pickup locations are available online, and carts are available daily from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. There is no limit to the number of trips that participants can make.
Competitors should only compost their own food scraps and leftovers such as orange, banana and apple peels, and No their compostable tableware, silverware and other paper products.
Other acceptable compostable foods include boiled meat and bones, eggs, dairy products, seafood, baked goods, fruits and vegetables, nuts and nutshells. Residents must remove stickers from their products before composting them.
Coffee and tea lovers can also compost their coffee filters, grounds and tea bags.
Participants must No raw meat and chicken compost, plenty of butter and chewing gum.
Other items that are restricted from composting include recyclable glass, metal, or plastic containers; diapers and sanitary pads; wine corks; pet waste; waxed items such as microwave popcorn Styrofoam, paper and cardboard.
For more information about composting guidelines and program instructions, visit www.plano.gov/foodcomposting.