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Traverse City nonprofit aims to reduce landfill mass

Landfills produce a lot of methane, a heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming. With scientists calling for cuts in methane emissions, there are challenges to curbing these emissions from landfills, starting with even quantifying them. Pictured here is Waste Management landfill in Livermore, Calif.
Michael Macor
/
San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Landfills produce a lot of methane, a heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming. With scientists calling for cuts in methane emissions, there are challenges to curbing these emissions from landfills, starting with even quantifying them. Pictured here is Waste Management landfill in Livermore, Calif.

Food waste is a growing issue in Michigan, and every scrap that’s tossed in the trash ends up in one of the 66 landfills across the state. One Traverse City nonprofit is trying to reduce this waste by 25% over a 10 county region.

The group is called Seeds, and they're an environmentally-focused organization that promotes education on sustainability.

Seeds was recently selected to be a part of the Foods, Liquids, and Organic Waste Systems Innovation Challenge, or FLOWS for short. The program is centered around redesigning the organic waste recycling system in the state and was jump started by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

Reducing landfill mass is the intended goal of Seeds chosen project for this challenge, but reaching a reduction of 25% will take a combination of community-based waste drop-off locations and composting at home, according to Seeds Executive Director Sarna Salzman.

“Because so much of us live in a rural or semi-rural environment, we have room in our backyards, it’s not apartment buildings," she said. "So it's going to be an all of the above set of solutions to get to this 25% reduction, including backyard compost, including community drop off locations, and then eventually, hopefully, ramping up into a curbside service for a lot of residents and businesses.”

Mass composting efforts are already being made in the Grand Traverse County community that Seeds is based in. Salzman said they've partnered with organizations Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC) and Oryana Community Co-op to create local drop-off centers.

What Seeds has zeroed in on for their FLOWS project is the actual process of repurposing waste.

“This project is really about taking wastes that people have been throwing into their garbage that's going to the dump, and getting them to separate those wastes in a way that we can manage to pick up, sort, and process and turn back into soil through composting procedures,” Salzman said.

Using these procedures can keep more waste out of the landfill, but Salzman said preventing further food waste is another intention of the project and of Seeds as an organization.