Community Composting on the Rise

Over the last several years a wave was building of communities that wanted to start local composting programs. In some cases, the recession slowed their growth, but many of these attempts have survived and thrived as communities began to work together to solve simple problems where they could effect change. Neighborhood composting is something that everyone in the community can participate in and the benefits of less pollution, reduced demand for landfill space and less trash being hauled away directly benefit everyone in the community.

From Malibu to Minneapolis, there have been some very notable success stories of neighborhood composting. In Minnesota, one test involved the pick-up of compostable waste be a crew of people on bicycles hauling a small trailer carrying the compost barrels. This was only one part of an experiment to see which collection method would be best, but it showed how creative people can be when they work together toward a common goal.

There are several community groups in New York City that provide compostable waste collection at local farmer’s markets. The waste is collected at the market and then sent off to a local composting company for processing. Then the compost is brought back to the market and sold to customers.

There are towns in The United Kingdom that have collection sites, hold regular seminars, publish a magazine and hold clinics on how to start composting in your town. They even get the food growers involved to help provide the waste vegetable matter from their farms to the community compost heap. The make it simple to participate and beneficial for all parties concerned.

It appears for now that composting in this country is going to be on a local basis and maybe town by town. There are really no definitive guidelines that have been established from a centralized agency about the classification of all items that should or should not be composted. You can’t do composting on a large scale; say a city the size of Chicago or Los Angeles, unless you have very well defined rules, and a compost bin for every residential customer to collect their compostable trash.

The benefits to any city that can figure out how to do this will be huge. Some of the cost savings that can be realized by a city that composts on a large scale are: Reduced collection/ transfer/processing charges, Lower overall collection costs as the weight and volume of trash collected is reduced, reductions in air and water pollution as compostable waste in landfills is a huge contributor to methane gas production and less consumption of pesticides and fertilizers. Additional but less noticeable benefits are the fact that compost added to soil increases the soil’s aeration, helps control soil erosion, increases the soil’s ability to retain water, reduces the overall water demand of plants and trees, neutralizes toxins in the soil and reduces mineral leaching.

If you and your neighborhood/community/village or hamlet want to get started composting, here are some basic guidelines for people that will be bringing in material to be composted. Acceptable items are: All fruit and vegetable peelings and pits, non-greasy food scraps or leftovers, rice, pasta, bread, cereal, coffee grounds with filter, tea bags, hair and nails (animal or human), egg and nut shells, cut or dried flowers, wreaths, houseplants and potting soil. Unacceptable items are: meat, chicken and fish, greasy food scraps, fat and oil, dairy items: cheese, butter, dog or cat feces, kitty litter, coal or charcoal, coconuts, diseased and/or insect-infested houseplants and soil.