As the name implies, community composting occurs when different waste generators (such as small and large households within one or several societies) compost organic waste at a specific location (ideally within the society's premises, but sometimes in a nearby shared space).
Table of Contents
What is community composting?
Community composting is the process of composting on a larger level than just the individual compost bin of a household here or there. To make the biggest environmental difference, activating an entire community is key.
Various methods and sizes are available to groups and communities interested in putting together a community composting program.
Large-scale centralized facilities can serve a wide geographic area, divert significant quantities of organic materials from disposal, and bring ecological benefits to the region it services.
The benefits of community composting
Local composting at the neighborhood or community level is also very beneficial in the following ways:
- meet ZERO WASTE and landfill diversion goals
- improved food security
- increase state and local compost facility capacity
- less truck traffic hauling garbage
- manage compost feedstock for contaminants
- fewer food deserts
- educate communities about composting
- improve local air quality
- rebuild local soil health
- generate high-quality bio-renewable products
- create local jobs
- strengthen local food security
- social inclusion and empowerment
- greener neighborhoods
- an increase in composting skills and knowledge within the local workforce that is perpetuated in future generations
With growing concern about our environment, climate change, and greenhouse gas emissions, the time has come for community members and local businesses to implement programs that will help communities become more sustainable.
Community participation and education can flourish when composting is conducted locally on a small scale.
What are the rules of community composting?
Each state and local gov has its own rules, laws, and regulations regarding composting, so it is important to ensure you follow the rules before you start community composting and obtain the necessary permits.
Because composting affects its surroundings, the community composts must adhere to certain rules and protocols so as not to end up with foul odors or attract rats and other pests that may negatively affect the neighborhood near the compost.
Many U.S. cities and states are currently shaping compost policy as they develop landfill diversion plans.
Here are some rules to go by:
1. Choose the right composting system
A composting project that is best for the particular community it serves requires choosing the right composting system, including:
- Worm farm composting (vermicomposting)
- EMO composting (bacteria composting)
- Combination composting (compot composting)
- Commercial composting
2. Choose the right composting site
Because the compost site may affect its surroundings, it is important to be democratic about where the community composting site is located.
Choose a remote location if possible, so you don’t upset nearby residents and businesses with your community compost pile activities.
3. Organize drop-off and pick-up location near the site
Collection services are a big part of having a community compost work properly.
Choose drop-off sites or on-site curbside drop-offs of composting material like trimmings, pounds of food scraps, coffee grounds, kitchen waste, yard waste, etc.
Having a well-run food scrap drop and food scrap collection program is critical. It is recommended that community members that participate in the program have gallon buckets at home to collect their organic waste in.
4. Choose the right structure for your community compost
Whether for-profit or nonprofit, make sure you articulate the structure of your community compost correctly. Finished compost is valuable and can be sold or reinvested into the community.
Local farms, community gardens, and urban farms are just a few examples of places that could benefit from the finished compost, so plan what you intend to do with the byproduct of the community compost.
5. Educate community members about composting
There are webinars, podcasts, and articles galore about composting. The key organizers of a community compost must do their research and be informed so they can lead the way.
Community-scale composting relies on its members to learn about and master composting operations.
Community Composting Principles
- Waste is reduced; organic materials are composted instead of thrown away.
- Closed loop and locally based: organic materials are a community asset generated and recycled within a neighborhood.
- Recycled organic materials: compost improves soil structure, maintains nutrients, carbon, and soil microbes, and supports local food production.
- The composting infrastructure is diverse, distributed, and sustainable; systems are scaled to meet the needs of local communities.
- Engaged, empowered, and educated community: compost programs engage and educate the community about food systems thinking, resource stewardship, and community sustainability while providing solutions that enable individuals, businesses, and institutions to keep organic waste out of landfills.
- Supported by the community: aligns with community goals (like healthy soils and healthy people). Composting programs support a community’s social, economic, and environmental well-being.
Is community composting worth it?
In this writer’s humble opinion, yes, it is worth it.
Composting in the community offers several opportunities for the management of organic waste.
In addition to providing a valuable soil amendment for community gardens, composting also teaches valuable job training skills to residents, schools, and businesses.