frozen compost

Q: Reader Natalie Timm asked, “How do you freeze compostables before putting into the weekly compost pickup bin? Can’t put them in a plastic bag. I’m stumped and would like to compost food waste, but it turns quickly to maggots in my sunny location.”

A: For an answer to this question, we turned to our Zero Waste columnist Cynthia Albers, who had this response:

Uncooked produce, including trimmings from meal prep or items that have wilted in the back of the fridge, can go directly into the Green Cart along with other plant material. Foods like coffee grounds, tea bags and stale bread should also be fine. But to contain potential odors from meat scraps, dairy and previously cooked foods, collect them in an empty ice cream carton or a paper bag (I use the paper bag my bread comes in) and store in the freezer until the night before pick-up. The ice cream carton (or other container) should not go into the Green Cart, but the paper bag can.

When it comes time to empty a solid container or carton, I leave it on the kitchen counter for a minute to loosen the frozen material, which then slip easily out and into the compost cart.

Recology Waste Zero Specialist Ambrosia Thomson said she places a paper bag into a large bowl, adds her kitchen waste, and places everything into the freezer. The bag is then ready to place in the Green Cart on pick-up day. She adds that if you are emptying waste into your carts after dark, bring a flashlight to avoid confusing compost and recycling.

Reminders from Recology:

• Glass is not a compostable organic. It goes into the Blue Cart.

• Pet feces and cat litter must go into the Gray Cart.

• When in doubt, go to and consult their “What Bin?” search tool.

The greatest challenge for some households will be reserving space in the freezer for compostables. To be clear, freezing food scraps is a suggestion, not a requirement. It’s perfectly fine to take your food waste to the Green Cart each day. But if you are only collecting food waste and not yard waste, consider wrapping the food in newspaper before placing into the cart. (Another great reason to subscribe to Sonoma West in print!)

If your cart is drawing flies, make sure the lid of the cart is fully closed. Other recommendations: cover food waste with yard trimmings, shredded paper from your home office, or wrap in newspaper before disposal.

Got more zero waste questions, ask them directly to Cynthia at

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