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microcollie
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Neighborhood Compost

I've had it in my head for a few years now to try to grow interest in a neighborhood compost project. The way I see it, local homeowners and buisinesses would bring their compostable materials to a common site, then be able to use the compost as it's finished. Simple in theory, but needs alot of organization and planning to make it work. I'm hoping to involve local restaurants, schools, and homeowners, and have a good spot on my property that could be used (would have to run it past the zoning board, though)

Anyone have such a thing happening in their neighborhood? Any insight into the real workings of one? I'm envisioning it as sort of a windrow system, with different rows representing various stages, so as to keep it fairly simple. Any other options that you think might work well? Possible pitfalls?

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rainbowgardener
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Nope, but I just heard a lecture by Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, inc on urban gardening last night. That is the foundation of his work. Makes huge windrows of compost from collecting all the neighborhood compostables and the city tree chippings etc. He has a fabulous slideshow about it, but I don't know that he has a book out yet, though he is mentioned in a number of them (e.g.

Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet by Harriet Rohmer )

and has a blog:

https://www.growingpower.org/blog/archives/381

Then he uses the compost to turn vacant lots and other urban waste spaces into community gardens.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

toxcrusadr
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I think it's great. The first question that pops into mind is the regulatory angle. Aside from zoning, what other local or state regs come into play? If you're bringing material in from other places - especially businesses - are you then a commercial composting facility? At which point the city or state may require you to get a permit or several permits. A composting facility might need a general operating permit from the state, plus a stormwater discharge permit. You may have thought this through already, but if not, you may want to call your state environmental agency and have a chat. Find a field person in a local office if you can, rather than the bureaucrats at the head office. (I'm only half kidding - I am one.) They may even be real supportive of the idea, but if the regs don't give them any leeway, they may be forced to make you jump through hoops.
Tox

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applestar
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I sort of wonder about equitable distribution of the compost, but tox brought up points and issues that I wouldn't have considered or known about. 8)

I suppose too, that people are more likely to put things out TO BE COLLECTED than to bring them. Would your municipality support a volunteer run community composting project/program with you providing the site? Maybe you could also run a community garden there.... :idea:

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farmerlon
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And don't forget about equipment !
For a large composting operation with several large windrows, you're likely to need a tractor or bobcat with a front end loader, at the very least.

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microcollie
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All good points. I figure that the place to start would be getting the permitting part somewhat squared away. I have a friend who's one of the town selectmen who's offered help in that area to see if it's feasible or not. I'm hoping to use a site at the back of my property, but there's wetlands nearby, so might have an issue. I've been trying to plant seeds in the heads of a few other people if my site doesn't work. My friend thinks that the idea of accepting foodstuffs might be a problem, but this is all very preliminary, so we'll get to that when it arises.

As far as equitable distribution, my hope is that the honor system would work. People around here seem to do the right thing when given the chance. Someone else suggested a small charge, well under the cost of commercial compost, but enough that it would prevent people from taking too much. I'd like to avoid this if I can. But if I can get local restaurants in on the "raw material" end, (this is the Berkshires, so there's no shortage of restaurants), they probably wouldn't have much interest in the end product.

I have an old bucket loader that could probably be resurrected if this whole thing happens.

As I said, this is all still just an idea that's been rattling around in my head for years. But at this time of year especially, when I drive through town and see plastic bags full of leaves and yard waste waiting to be hauled off to some dump somewhere, I think it's worth putting a little more thought toward. Keep ideas/thoughts coming!

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rainbowgardener
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Re the bags full of leaves.... I do my part by driving around picking up backs of leaves and bringing them home to use for compost and mulch. Last year I got 8 bags, this year I will try for more. I have friends in town as well as friends :) here on the Forum who do the same. Spread the word... if all us composters did that, it would at least slow down the flow into the landfill. (In my town at least, those leaves the city picks up are not composted, just go into landfill.)
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

toxcrusadr
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I hope my regulatory comments were not too discouraging. I just didn't want you to get blindsided. The other approach would be to do it sort of offline, start small, and fly under the radar. Since it would not be a profit-making business, it may be in a gray area or not addressed by various regulations. I really don't know where a neighborhood cooperative composting operation would fall in your state/county/city. It may not be a big deal.

One can make generic inquiries, for example at the state environmental agency. You can tell them you're thinking about it and researching it. You don't have to tell them where it would be or even who you are, but you can ask questions about whether or how such an activity would be regulated. I get calls like that all the time (although I'm in a different area than solid waste and composting). Regulators appreciate when someone actually asks the question.

We have a juice bar downtown that saves its food waste in Rubbermaid tubs. Anyone can ask them for some and they will give you all you want. If it stacks up and no one takes it, the owner takes it out to his farm and composts it. He has more than he needs, so he'd rather give it away, but it keeps it out of the landfill. It may actually be in violation of some solid waste or commercial compost facility regulations, I don't know.

The important thing, of course, is that it's run right: no runoff of organic-rich oxygen-depleting leachate into waterways; no varmints eating food waste; odors controlled, and that sort of thing.

Our city has yard waste dropoff sites where they shred limbs and such into mountains of free mulch. The city got in trouble with the state a couple years back for runoff. Both sites are right next to waterways. So they put berms of wood chips around the outside to direct and filter runoff, and made catch basins for it to collect and evaporate or soak into the ground. No more problems. It's really not that hard to do right.
Tox

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Green Daddy
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Here's what we did:

Hi microcollie. I was basically at the same spot where you were a few months ago. Here's what we managed to pull off so far.

step 1. organized and delivered a free lecture for the neighborhoods families including (very important) the kids, talking about recycling, organic gardening and the likes.

step 2. at the end of the event we'd sign up the kids+parents to a non profit diy composter building class. materials were provided by municipality, but I bet you could charge some money from the people involved.

step 3. we've built a few compsters around the neighborhood and assembled a weekly rotation of parents and kids that take care of their composters.

step 4. the compost we created was distributed evenly at the local gardens.

we haven't yet addressed the local restaurants and businesses - here we have very few. But i guess that if you start with the community 1st getting local businesses to support and sponsor a successful operation is also beneficial on their behalf...

I'd love to see where you take this project and figure out ways to sort out common problems.
"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. " -Hanna Rion

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