Advocates of recycling got a big supporter Monday when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents of his city to start composting their food scraps, and that's a trend the Twin Cities is working on too.
Right now, only a few cities offer to pick up food scraps for composting, but there are pilot programs out there and interest is growing. The main challenges are cost and getting everyone on board.
At Felicity Britton's house, a dinner of steak and potatoes gets divvied up after the preparation is finished. She puts the potato peels and bones in a special container for recycling, and she says it's as easy as that.
"If you can pick something up and let it go, you can compost," Britton said.
Along with her neighbors in Linden Hills, Britton participates in a pilot program where haulers come by once a week to collect food scraps for composting.
"You don't have to be a tree-hugger to be passionate about composting," Britton said.
About a dozen cities offer similar programs, but St. Paul isn't on the list -- and that's why Dianna Kennedy, with Eureka Recycling, is working with the city to find ways to get citizens started.
"It's really at an exciting time now to be at a place where people know the benefits," Kennedy said.
About half of the food made in the U.S. is thrown away every year because it is either overproduced or spoils. It's estimated that a typical household throws away 474 pounds of food scraps each year.
"Composting is a natural process where we take things that were once from a plant or animal and turn it back into nutrient-rich soil," Kennedy said.
Even so, University of Minnesota waste management professor Thomas Halbach says setting up a large-scale composting network is a daunting task.
"It is not free. It takes resources," he said. "You'll need sites, location, land property, equipment, buildings, trained labor."
Concerns about cost, collection times and the smell are still major barriers for critics.
"We're talking $500 million in capital costs to manage the food waste in just the seven counties in the metro area," estimated Halbach.
Still, supporters say composting is part of a responsible lifestyle and they believe it will catch on everywhere.
Currently, the Minnesota Pollution Control agency is working on compost rules and requirements for the state. Many city leaders say they are holding off on starting food scrap recycling programs until those rules are drafted and they know how much it will cost their communities.