How To Hit Pay Dirt*

Step 1: Divert One Million Tons Of Organics To Composting
Step 2: Create And Sustain 1,400 New Full-Time Jobs
Step 3: Use Compost In Community
Step 4: Reduce Watershed Contamination
(*calculated for State of Maryland)

A new report released on May 8 by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) — “Pay Dirt: Composting in Maryland to Reduce Waste, Create Jobs, & Protect the Bay” — found that 1,400 new full-time jobs could be supported in the state of Maryland for every million tons of yard trimmings and food scraps converted into compost that is used locally.  Collectively, these jobs could pay wages ranging from $23 million to $57 million. Based on a survey of Maryland composters, Pay Dirt calculated that, on a per-ton basis, composting sustains twice as many jobs as landfilling and four times the number of jobs as burning garbage.  On a dollar-per-capital-investment basis, the number of jobs supported by composting versus disposal options was even more striking — 3 times more than landfills, and 17 times more than incinerators, says Brenda Platt, lead author of Pay Dirt and director of ILSR’s Composting Makes $en$e project.  Many of these are skilled jobs such as equipment operators, with typical wages in the $16 to $20/hour range.

ILSR also released a companion paper, “Building Healthy Soils with Compost to Protect Watersheds,” which details how compost use can reduce watershed contamination from urban pollutants by an astounding 60 to 95 percent.  Because compost can hold 20 times its weight in water and acts like a filter and sponge, it can reduce soil erosion and prevent storm water run-off, huge issues impacting the Chesapeake Bay and other impaired watersheds in the United States.  Markets for compost are growing in part due to the expansion of sustainable practices associated with green infrastructure such as green roofs, rain gardens and low impact development. “For every 10,000 tons per year of compost used for green infrastructure, we found that another 18 jobs could be supported,” says Platt, adding that “support for composting equals support for a made-in-America industrial sector.” The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is a nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC. The two reports were released in conjunction with International Compost Awareness Week.

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