LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A new initiative, Lancaster Compost Co-ops aims to reduce landfill waste and build community relationships by providing space for residents to engage in composting together.
With Lancaster Compost Co-ops, volunteers drop off compostable waste in designated containers around the city, help maintain the compost sites, and eventually get to use or share the compost they create.
“In solid waste, we talk about recycling, but we hardly ever talk about waste minimization,” says Michael Devaney. Devaney is the compost captain for the Lancaster Compost Co-ops site at the Recycling Drop-Off Center as well as the manager of solid waste and recycling for the city of Lancaster.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2018, food waste accounted for about 21.6% of total municipal solid waste. The Food and Drug Administration reports that food waste is about 30-40% of the food supply. “So if we can pull that out and put it back as a beneficial use, that’s ultimately our goal,” says Devaney.
Eve Bratman, assistant professor of environmental studies at Franklin & Marshall College and the founder and project lead for Lancaster Compost Co-ops, points out that many Lancaster city residents may not have enough backyard space — or even a backyard at all — for composting at home.
“The idea of this decentralized bin system is that in your own local neighborhood, you can participate through just offering an hour a week of service work to maintain the bin, and in exchange have the privilege of dropping off your food scraps and ultimately hopefully also having some nice compost at the end of it,” says Bratman.
Bratman was inspired to create Lancaster Compost Co-ops by a similar successful program in Washington D.C. as well as by work her students did with Regenerate Lancaster as they brainstormed ways to reduce food waste. The initiative is funded by a grant from Franklin & Marshall’s Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster.
There are currently two composting sites in Lancaster: one at the Lancaster Recycling Drop-Off Center and one in Musser Park. Devaney, who has also been instrumental in implementing the initiative, hopes there will eventually be compost bins all around the city. He pictures the bins in every park, landscaped with gardens enriched by the compost created by the co-ops.
To become a member of the composting co-ops, individuals must first attend an orientation session to learn how to manage the bins. Two orientations (one for each location) have already occurred, and Devaney and Bratman are planning more.
Two more orientations are scheduled for May 4 and May 15 at Musser Park, Bratman notes. Additional orientation times will be posted on the Lancaster Compost Co-ops website, LancasterCompost.us, once the site is launched.
Any Lancaster City residents are welcome to join the program, says Devaney, and there is still plenty of capacity and time for more people to get involved.
Bratman says, “We hope that not only will people be able to feel better about reducing their household waste…but also that it’ll help people get to know each other through cooperating in doing a project that’s meaningful.”