In 2018, Beverlee Sanders launched a novel pilot project in Charlotte, North Carolina: collecting food scraps from a small number of homes and sending them to a composting facility, rather than to the landfill. Food is the number one category of waste going to landfills. Once dumped, it produces methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. Beverlee, who works for the city’s solid waste services division, thought if she could show how much food she kept out of the landfill—seven tons after just 18 weeks—it would help Charlotte consider a citywide composting program. Research shows that a centralized composting system is the most effective method for diverting refuse from landfills and reducing greenhouse gases associated with waste. But since the pilot ended, she hasn’t been able to revive her composting efforts. Many cities that want to reduce organic waste struggle with this—composting is expensive and it can be hard to achieve buy-in.

Beverlee Sanders, with Charlotte’s Solid Waste Services, hands out bins for a food composting pilot project in the city’s North End. She says a citywide composting program would improve residents’ health, improve air quality, and reduce Charlotte’s carbon footprint. But the popular project stalled after 18 weeks because of a lack of funding. Photo courtesy of Beverlee Sanders.

Irina Zhorov reported and produced this episode.

Thank you to Blue Dot Sessions for the music used to score this episode. Tracks include:
“Lobo Lobo”—El Baul