When folks compost — take their organic waste, like food scraps and pet droppings and such, and mix it with soil or sawdust to create nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants — it’s often a feel-good activity. It’s better for the planet than throwing those watermelon rinds in the landfill (Quick Fact: About 40 percent of landfill waste is organic) and you get a more robust garden out of the deal as well.
Composting has been heating up in Greater Portland lately, I suspect because of those aforementioned benefits. Because of increased demand, the city is continuing to sell at reduced prices its 2013 home compost bin and handy dandy how-to guide for a low low price of $50 (the set retails for more like $100, according to the city), as well as various other composting toys like $10 kitchen waste pail, a $20 wing digger compost turner, a $20 compost thermometer and $65 rain-capture barrel.
But all that considered, I doubt many people compost because they consider it a job creator.
Well, now there’s some research out there suggesting that by turning your banana peels into fertilizer dirt you’re a little angel investor in your own right.
This interesting study came out in Maryland. It’s titled “Pay Dirt: Composting in Maryland to Reduce Waste, Create Jobs and Protect the Bay.”
Now, typically, when I get press releases about studies that specific to a state that isn’t Maine, it doesn’t last long before seeing the recycle bin.
This study, released by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, finds what a study released by a group called the Institute for Local Self-Reliance would be expected to find — that composting is a major boon to green industry and creates jobs — but provides some interesting numbers nonetheless.
The report finds that for every million tons of organic waste recycled, 1,400 new full-time jobs could be supported, with total wages ranging from $23 million to $57 million.
Here’s a graph from the ILSR announcement of the study with more figures:
Based on a survey of Maryland composters, Pay Dirt found that, on a per-ton basis, composting sustains twice as many jobs as landfilling and four times the number of jobs as burning garbage. On a dollar-per-capital-investment basis, the number of jobs supported by composting versus disposal options was even more striking: 3 times more than landfills, and 17 times more than incinerators. Many of these jobs are skilled jobs such as equipment operators, with typical wages in the $16 to $20 per hour range.
Now, this is Maryland, of course. But we may see some Greater Portland specific numbers within a month or so, as ecomaine, a nonprofit waste management company serving nearly 50 southern Maine communities, releases the results of its feasibility study on adding organic waste disposal to its suite of services (which already includes a waste-to-energy plant, a massive recycling facility and an ash-only landfill).
On a smaller scale, we already know composting creates jobs in Portland because the company Garbage to Garden launched almost a year ago to pick up compost buckets curbside — so there’s a handful of positions that weren’t there before.