The stench in Johnston

The stench in Johnston

To the Editor,  The smell from the landfill is primarily the result of the decay of organic matter buried in it.  If we stopped burying food scrap and other organics, and instead composted them, the smell from the landfill would be greatly diminished over time, and we would be producing compost that can be used to revitalize agricultural soils in Rhode Island, improve the economy in our communities,  and increase our community resilience in the face of climate change.  More and more communities all over the world are composting every day.

Unfortunately in Rhode Island it is so cheap to just pick up everything and dump it on the hill at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation’s Central Landfill in Johnston.  Taking proper care of the materials we have, including those that are critical to growing food, costs a little more than just tossing trash on the hill and burying it.  But if we take proper care, we dramatically over time reduce the smells and the high emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane that are 21 times as effective at reflecting heat waves back to earth as carbon dioxide.  Yes, in these hard times no one can afford to pay more to dispose of things, but we can not afford to keep throwing valuable resources away and polluting at the same time.

Landfills are the largest source of methane emissions in the United States and the simple solution is the one that creates the most value for the community.  Compost all food scrap instead of burying it.

For many years I lived near paper mills, and when the wind and clouds were right, it was enough to make you gag, so I have some idea what the folks near the landfill are experiencing.  In fact the releases are mostly the same sulfur containing compounds.  We need some short term solutions to reduce the smell today, but we also need the long term solution of collecting and composting food scrap.  I am asking all of our policy leaders to join in the discussion of how best to remove the structural impediments that prevent us from taking advantage of a valuable resource and fully develop our compost industry.  We will all breathe and eat better.

Greg Gerritt
Coordinator  RI Compost Initiative   A project of the Environment Council of RI and the Greater Providence Urban Agriculture Task Force
37 6th St  Providence RI 02906

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