Composting can take place at many levels – backyard, block, neighborhood, schoolyard, community, and regional – and in urban, suburban, and rural areas. There are many methods and sizes. Large-scale centralized facilities can serve wide geographic areas and divert significant quantities of organic materials from disposal. Composting locally at the neighborhood or community-level yields many other benefits: social inclusion and empowerment, greener neighborhoods, improved local soils, enhanced food security and fewer food deserts, less truck traffic hauling garbage, more local jobs, and increased composting know-how and skills within the local workforce that is reinforced in the next generation. When composting is small-scale and locally based, community participation and education can flourish. When materials are collected and transported out of the community for processing, few if any of these benefits are realized at the local level. In addition, community-scale operations can move from concept to operation in a relatively short time frame. And community composting can build critical support for and participation in future citywide food scrap recovery programs.
Guiding Principles of Community Composting:
- Resources recovered: Waste is reduced; food scraps and other organic materials are diverted from disposal and composted.
- Locally based and closed loop: Organic materials are a community asset, and are generated and recycled into compost within the same neighborhood or community.
- Organic materials returned to soils: Compost is used to enhance local soils, support local food production, and conserve natural ecology by improving soil structure and maintaining nutrients, carbon, and soil microorganisms.
- Community-scaled and diverse: Composting infrastructure is diverse, distributed, and sustainable; systems are scaled to meet the needs of a self-defined community.
- Community engaged, empowered, and educated: Compost programming engages and educates the community in food systems thinking, resource stewardship, or community sustainability, while providing solutions that empower individuals, businesses, and institutions to capture organic waste and retain it as a community resource.
- Community supported: Aligns with community goals (such as healthy soils and healthy people) and is supported by the community it serves. The reverse is true, too; a community composting program supports community social, economic, and environmental well-being.