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Singing the Praises of Composting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some say lo-o-ve, it i-i-is compost . . .

The Divine Miss M--Grammy-winner, Oscar nominee--has a hot new role: L.A.'s first-ever Compost Queen.

Bette Midler, usually seen on stages and movie screens, now beams down on her public from 40-odd billboards around the city, urging residents to “Keep the Green Clean.” (Translation: Green recycling containers are for yard trimmings only. No trash.) As she poses in front of a compost heap, Midler also offers the message that it is better to keep organic waste out of the garbage collection system altogether.

She is doing it for free, out of a longtime commitment to the environment. But a busy schedule kept her from the kickoff ceremony last month, so she has yet to be officially crowned.

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“What we’re really trying to do is to get residents to compost more. This is a fun way to do it,” said Gyl Elliott, spokeswoman for Los Angeles’ recycling program.

The city collects 1,600 tons of yard trimmings a day. Recycling that material is expensive, so officials are trying to encourage residents to turn to composting.

About 9,000 residents have attended the city’s composting workshops, and folks have bought 2,500 composting bins to hold garden material and kitchen scraps, which under the right conditions decompose into fertilizer.

The actress-singer-producer scripted this role for herself, declaring in a 1994 comedy concert that she wanted to be Compost Queen because “all the good causes are taken.” In a magazine essay, Midler called herself a composting “evangelist.”

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“My whole life had been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first [compost] heap,” the red-headed crooner wrote. “I love compost and believe in it with every fiber (so to speak) of my being. I believe that composting can save, not the entire world, but a good portion of it.”

When city officials heard about Midler’s love of deteriorating garbage, they contacted her for their campaign.

This is not Midler’s first foray into public environmentalism. In 1991 she adopted a section of the Ventura Freeway because she was sick of seeing litter there as she was shuttled between her Beverly Hills home and the Burbank studios.

In Toronto filming her new movie, “That Old Feeling,” Midler could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The campaign is paid for by recycling contractors and billboard owners, and will include 80 more billboards to go up this fall.


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