National Waste & Recycling Association

The National Waste & Recycling Association is the trade association that represents the private sector solid waste and recycling industry. Visit and learn more the Association at

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association.

The National Waste & Recycling Association is located at:
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20008
T: 800-424-2869, 202-244-4700
F: 202-966-4824
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Media: Chris Doherty at 202-364-3751 or

Begin with the Bin

Begin with the Bin is a public education resource developed by the National Waste & Recycling Association. The site offers information and resources related to the waste and recycling industries. Visit and learn more at

About Backyard Composting

Think about it – we throw away a lot of kitchen scraps and yard waste. Most of it ends up in landfills. Reducing the amount of kitchen scraps is an important part to the waste reduction strategy. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dates on food labels almost never indicate anything about the safety of the food, yet it contributes significantly to the amount of food discarded. To extend the life of food, consider freezing – many people are unaware of the variety of foods that can be frozen without problems. These include eggs, bread and milk!

With the food scraps that are produced, people are beginning to use it to make compost and enrich their soil for gardening. Composting is growing in the United States. It is a way to recycle yard and kitchen waste by controlling decomposition to make a nutrient-rich substance that can be used as fertilizer. Composting is a clear way to reduce the volume of garbage waste sent to landfills or incinerators for disposal.

The three basic ingredients for all garbage waste composting are: browns (including materials such as dead leaves, branches, twigs, wood chips or cardboard); greens (materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps and coffee grounds) and water. Achieving a proper ratio of these ingredients accelerates the breakdown of organic materials and creates “humus” – a dark brown or black substance with a soil-like, earthy smell that can be used as fertilizer. That’s humus, not hummus!

Composting for a Sustainable Thanksgiving

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 At Thanksgiving, many Americans are thankful for a fantastic feast. And with the feast comes the challenge of dealing with an influx of food waste, but also an opportunity for increased participation in composting and recycling.

The National Waste & Recycling Association has produced some helpful tips for composting and recycling for a green Thanksgiving.

According to WorldWatch Institute, Americans generate three times as much food waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as we do the rest of the year. Annually, the world trashes approximately one-third of all the food it produces, and the U.S. is responsible for more than 36 million tons of that.

Thankfully, there’s ways to reduce that amount. Nearly two-thirds of Americans agree that eating Thanksgiving leftovers are even more important than the dinner itself! For them, leftovers may be the highlight of the holiday season, but there are other ways to make your holiday more sustainable.

In addition to repurposing leftover food, be sure to compost and recycle as much as possible:

  • Turkey, Ham and Other Meats: While delicious, these entrees do not belong in backyard composting bins. They are best repurposed into stocks, soups or other dishes, eaten as leftovers, frozen for future use or donated. Consider buying smaller portions that will suffice for your family’s feast.
  • Bread: Stale bread does not equal bad bread! Take those rolls and repurpose them as croutons for salad, bread crumbs for baking or delicious bread pudding for dessert. When composting in the back yard, make sure to bury them so unwanted pests don’t appear.
  • Cranberries and other Fruits: Fruit and vegetable scraps are perfect for composting, which requires a combination of nitrogen-rich “greens,” like fruits and vegetables; carbon-rich “browns” – dead leaves, twigs, wood and even cardboard; water; and oxygen.
  • Potatoes and Yams: Done with your leftover potatoes and their peels? These came from the earth, and they can go right back. Whether mashed, baked, fried, roasted, sweet or scalloped, bury these in your pile for proper composting.
  • Vegetables: Green beans, corn, squashes and other vegetables—including peelings, rinds and toppings—are compostable. Even whole pumpkins, after broken apart, can be composted. If you can’t finish them in one sitting or save them, toss them in the pile. (Though you may want to remove their seeds.)
  • Dessert and Coffee: Can’t finish that fruit medley? Toss it, your coffee grounds and your coffee filter into the composting pile. In fact, the grounds are considered “green” composting ingredients.
  • Food Packaging: Did your pie come in a plain cardboard box? Uncoated cardboard is compostable, especially greasy boxes. Most recycling services accept cardboard and paper packaging items that don’t contain food residues.
  • Cans: Don’t just toss empty steel sauce, soup or veggie cans. Rinse them out and recycle them.
  • Beverage Containers: Recycle your bottles and aluminum cans. Caps can remain on the plastic bottles.
  • Paper: Shred damp paper towels or used paper plates and toss them in your composting bin, and they’ll break down.

Composting a pumpkin

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While pondering “Trick or treat?” this Halloween, millions of Americans will face another dilemma: what to do with that rotting jack-o’-lantern by the door?

Many Americans will carve a pumpkin to celebrate Halloween this year, but on Nov. 1, Jack’s destiny may be trashed. Pumpkins tossed in the garbage will join the million of tons of yard trimmings and food waste that Americans throw out annually – the largest component of household trash.

An environmentally friendly alternative to disposing of these ghoulish gourds is composting, a sustainable practice that reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills.

“Food waste deposited in landfills, including discarded Halloween pumpkins, produces methane which, if not managed properly, can contribute to greenhouse gases,” said Anne Germain, director of waste and recycling technology for the National Waste & Recycling Association. “Composting a pumpkin using a few simple tricks can help produce treats for the environment!”

Pumpkin Composting Tricks

  1. Remove artificial items that cannot compost (e.g. candles or foil) and seeds, which may grow into unwanted new pumpkins!
  2.  If you don’t have a compost pile, find a shady spot in your garden for your hollowed-out pumpkins.
  3.  Smash pumpkins into smaller pieces! This increases their surface area and helps them turn to compost faster.
  4.  Loosely cover the pumpkins with compostable materials like leaves or wood chips. This protects the pumpkins from pests and helps them break down into usable compost.
  5. Let Mother Nature take over! In weeks, your pumpkins will transform into nutrient-rich compost. Spread it around plants in your garden for a special treat during the winter months.

Environmental benefits of waste composting

There are a number of environmental benefits to composting:

  • Composting organic matter reduces the emission of greenhouse gases like methane.
  • Using compost as fertilizer reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and promotes higher crop yields and less environmental degradation.
  • Compost can regenerate poor soils, and can be used to cleanup (or remediate) contaminated soil by absorbing odors and treating chemicals.

Municipal and home waste composting

You can create your own home compost from yard and kitchen waste as well, either outside or indoors using a compost bin. Waste composting can be done with a variety of different systems or containers, including appropriately sized compost bins for the kitchen. You can construct yours at home, or buy a compost system in a garden supply or home improvement store. Try to keep the ratio of greens to brown about equal, keep the pile moist and fluffy. At, they recommend treating your compost pile as a pet – feeding it a balanced diet.

For the more adventurous composter, try vermiculture or bokashi composting. Vermiculture uses worms to accelerate the breakdown of fruits and vegetables. You can buy red wiggler worms wherever fish bait is sold. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy live worms on the internet and have a box mailed to you! Bokashi composting involves fermenting the material, usually limited to food waste due to smaller size of the composting unit. This composting method is done anaerobically (without oxygen) and can accept food wastes normally discouraged from traditional methods.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website features an excellent how-to guide on home waste composting. You can also check the EPA website to find out more about municipal waste composting programs in your state.

Some dos and don’ts and one warning:

  • Do try to make the material smaller to accelerate decomposition
  • Do try to keep an even amount of brown and green materials
  • Don’t add diseased plants
  • Don’t add meat, fish, eggs, dairy or oils to your compost
  • Don’t add animal waste [1]
  • Be careful with seeds – Weeds have them and pumpkins have them -- try to make sure the seeds aren’t in there to avoid propagating the seeds when using the compost

[1] In general, animal waste is avoided due to concerns about pathogens and the fact that most of our pets are meat eaters. In particular, there is a concern about cat waste. Herbivore waste, however, can make a great compost. Many zoos compost their animal waste and make it available to the public. For instance, each elephant generates about a ton of waste every ten days. This “zoo doo” compost is given away for free by the Oregon Zoo. Other zoos might charge a small fee. If you are set on composting your dog’s droppings, the USDA prepared a document on composting dog wastes.