Compost and Climate Change — the Vashon Connection


We are all concerned about the grave problem of climate change, and looking for ways that we can make a difference. Did you know that creating compost from yard and food waste is a very effective tool for combating climate change?

When organics are sent to rot in a landfill, they produce methane and their valuable soil-enhancing nutrients are lost forever. A properly managed compost pile produces no methane. In addition, it works the way Mother Nature does by breaking down waste material and creating a soil amendment that nurtures new life. Compost actually increases soil’s ability to act as a carbon sink, pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and using it to create plant material that pulls even more carbon out of the atmosphere.

Although composting at home is the gold standard, it is not practical or even possible for everyone. Many communities have put infrastructure in place to make it easier for residents to be sure the organic waste they create is being properly composted.

Zero Waste Vashon has been working diligently with King County Solid Waste Division for more than six years to bring this capability to Vashon.

One of our first steps was to encourage the county to accept yard and food waste at the Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station. This program has been in place since 2015, with the majority of what is collected being yard waste. The material is currently trucked 32 miles to Cedar Grove in Maple Valley at a significant cost, where it is made into compost. Some of this is trucked 32 miles back to the Island and sold locally.

Our next step has been to work with the county to determine the feasibility of a community-scale compost facility on Vashon. This would eliminate the Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) and costs created by the trucking, and allow Vashon to use our organic waste locally to improve Island soils.

We are pleased to announce that the Vashon Organics Processing Feasibility Study is now complete. There were two phases of the study, and the reports for both phases are now available for public review. You can access them through the county webpage at, or by googling “Vashon organics study,” or at

The study confirmed that it makes sense both from a cost and GHG perspective to establish a community compost facility on Vashon. When food waste collection is increased, the benefits are even greater.

The next step is to let the county know that Vashon will support community compost. The county is now working with a research firm and Zero Waste Vashon to create a survey that will be sent to all island residents at the beginning of the year. They will use it to gauge residents’ interest in both a local facility and the option of curbside pickup of yard and food waste — 99% of County residents already have this option.

Please be on the lookout for the survey postcard coming in early January, and take a few minutes to let the county know that Vashon supports compost! It could be one of the most important steps you take to fight climate change in the new year.

Nancy O’Connor, board president of Zero Waste Vashon.