North Central News

Turning food scraps into food for garden

By Amy Pantea
“It stinks.” “It’s not worth it.” “I don’t really garden.” These are a few common reactions when the subject of composting is discussed.

However, composting has evolved and become more convenient—and popular—in recent years. Phoenix is no exception.

Tiera Allen of Recycled City stands inside a community garden that the company has created on a property at 4th Avenue and Lincoln Street in downtown Phoenix, using compost produced by Recycled City. Allen points out that the okra is just about ready to harvest (photo by Amy Pantea).

Tiera Allen of Recycled City stands inside a community garden that the company has created on a property at 4th Avenue and Lincoln Street in downtown Phoenix, using compost produced by Recycled City. Allen points out that the okra is just about ready to harvest
(photo by Amy Pantea).

The composting process itself occurs naturally just by dead vegetation falling to the ground and decomposing back into the soil. Practicing this same natural decomposition process in the home allows organic matter to transform into compost, reducing landfill waste and recycling rich nutrients back into the soil.

“There is more bio-diversity in your soil. More active microbes. More concentrated nutrients,” explains Tiera Allen, co-owner of Recycled City, a new and unique pick-up composting service in the Valley. “Basically, it’s just healthier and your plants are going to get more of what they need.”

Allen said composting is a great way to revitalize Phoenix soil for growing local, fresh produce.

“People are always talking about wanting local, organic food, but you just can’t have that without the right soil,” Allen points out. “If you don’t take care of your soil, you won’t receive the results.”

Composting at home can be as simple as you make it, or at least to homeowner Elizabeth Alonzo it is. She and her husband live in the Woodlea/Melrose neighborhood and have been composting for almost two years, without needing to change much of their normal daily routine.

Under her sink in a small steel container with holes and a filter attached to the lid. Alonzo stores her food waste and dumps it into her outdoor compost bin weekly.

In her backyard is a new style of compost bin—a turn-style, so turning and aerating the food waste becomes as simple as turning the handle a few times, and watering only when necessary.

Alonzo’s advice: choose the right bin. There are a variety of styles on the market now. Some require manual turning, others make it easier to do so. The size will also factor in the smell that compost may produce.

The city of Phoenix also sells composting buckets for $5, which were made from old curbside trash containers. The city’s composting webpage, located off of the Public Works page, also gives an easy to follow run-down on how to begin composting.

Depending on how much work and effort you want to put in, composting can be as involved or uninvolved as you want. And there are pick-up composting services such as Recycled City, which offer close to no involvement necessary.

Recycled City (www.recycledcity.com) only began charging for its composting service in January, and as it reaches its business anniversary, it continues to expand both with residential and commercial clients. For residents who don’t want compost in return and just choose to compost to reduce landfill waste, Recycled City uses whatever leftover compost to grow fresh produce for the neighboring low-income community.

“We just want to replenish the soil and build a local food economy,” Allen says.

Multiple restaurants around the Valley use Recycled City’s services to compost within the workplace, including Gallo Blanco, located inside the boutique Clarendon Hotel. The restaurant owners incorporated composting into their restaurant just two months ago.

Denise Robson, co-owner of Gallo Blanco, says, “We realized just how much waste is in the restaurant industry, and how much food waste gets thrown out from the prep side of it to the post-consumer side of it.”

The restaurant requires multiple pick-ups on a weekly basis of the bright blue, 55-gallon compost bin stationed just outside the restaurant. The owners are now looking to begin composting at Otro Cafe, a sister restaurant of Gallo Blanco located on 7th Street just north of Bethany Home Road.

Even for those who don’t garden, compost reduces landfill waste and can help create enriched soil even in this dry desert.

As Alonzo says, “When it’s so easy, you have to ask yourself, ‘Why not’?”

Editor’s note: Amy Pantea is a journalism student at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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