Backyard and Neighborhood Composting

Keeping materials onsite—at home or in neighborhoods—presents rural, semi-rural, and small towns with a relatively low-cost, but effective, organics management program option for virtually all organic wastes. Such “decentralized” composting programs have many benefits, including relatively low startup costs. These programs require residents to play an active part in the organics management effort and help to create a sense of personal responsibility for organics management.

A well organized and promoted backyard or neighborhood composting program can divert substantial amounts of organic materials without the need for municipal or private collection, transportation, or processing.  These benefits are especially magnified when combined with organics reduction efforts such as grasscycling (where grass clippings from lawn mowing are left ‘in place’) and leaf mulching.

Communities benefit from lower disposal costs and reduced organics management requirements. In the long-term, backyard and neighborhood composting efforts can reduce or eliminate the need for municipal composting sites and helps to reduce the need for more landfill space or incinerator capacity. Residents save on trash or yard waste collection fees in areas where collection fees are applied on volume or weight of materials disposed. Backyard and neighborhood composting creates a compost product that can be used in gardens and on landscaping as a soil amendment, helping to reduce fertilizer input needs.

Decentralized composting applications are not limited to households. Commercial developments, including parks, small-scale horticultural operations golf courses, corporate campuses, and large multifamily residential units, as well as schools, colleges, universities and other institutions with landscaped areas and/or food waste generation can manage their own onsite composting programs.

Backyard Composting

Residents have a wide variety of options available for effective backyard composting. Home compost systems can be simple and “slow,” where materials are layered in a pile or heap and turned occasionally or left to “rot.” Decomposition will occur in about a year using this method.  A more active home composting approach requires use of enclosed containers, attention to the proper “mix” of green and brown ingredients, and more frequent turning of materials in order to speed decomposition. Finished compost from this approach would result in around 4 – 6 months. There are a wide range of backyard composting bins suitable for home composting; bins can also be constructed using readily available materials or purchased.