Get buy in from your community
This idea can be started by any type of community group, such as a church group (as in the case of the All Saints Episcopal Church, New Albany, Ohio, who were our inspiration for this idea), or else a neighborhood block group, school, community center, senior center, office block etc.
Get people excited! Let them know about the environmental benefits of diverting food waste from landfill, and also potentially the financial benefits of reducing waste pick-up costs. If your group is affiliated to a community garden the finished compost can even be used to fertilise your soil. Many municipal composting programs return composted food waste back to local farmers, creating higher-yield crops and reducing the need for chemical fertilisers.
Find a local composting company
Community members can compost at home and use the compost in their own gardens. However, at-home composting doesn't generate enough heat to break down animal products (like meat, cheese, or bones) or biodegradable packaging. When you come together as a community to compost, you will have enough food waste together to employ a local composting company to come and pick up your food waste from a centralized location, and these companies have the equipment to break down all food waste and compostable materials into useable compost!
To find local composting companies you can contact your county or town government waste management divisions to find out if they recommend any companies. This website, and also this one are handy resources to identify local composting companies across the US.
The Creation Care team who set up the Community Composting project at the All Saints Episcopal Church, New Albany, Ohio used a company called Go Zero which takes their food waste to a new composting facility at the London Correctional Facility where prisoners learn about composting while working there, resulting in social as well as environmental benefits.
The composting company will provide the composting bins, and they should clean them each time they carry out a collection. Work out with them how many bins you want to start with and how often you think lifts will need to be done (depending on how many people are interested in taking part). This can be adjusted as you go.
Set up the local composting station
Work out where to keep the composting bins in the community - somewhere accessible to everyone who will be using them, including the composting company. A good location might be outside your community center or church, or in one of your team members’ front yards, if they are happy with that. Bins should be secured from animals. A gate, a simple latch, or even a brick on top should do the trick.
Organize and distribute starter kits
To help your community get off to a good start, it’s a nice idea to provide starter kits to everyone who wants to start composting. Included in the starter kits should be a food waste bucket and lid, as well as a box of liners. Be sure to consult with your composting company about what they can compost, as different companies have different capabilities, and then crucially, communicate this clearly to your community. It would be a good plan to include a list of what is compostable by the chosen compost company with the start kit.
Talk to the composting company about sourcing the buckets, lids and liners for your community. At the All Saints Episcopal Church, New Albany, community members paid $20 for a starter kit plus the first 3 months of composting, but if you secure funding for this project you can cover the starter kits and composting company costs!
Communicate your progress
The best way to keep your community motivated is to let them know the impact they are having as they go. The composting company you use should be able to let you know the weight of food waste they collect each week/month. You can then use an online calculator like this one to calculate carbon equivalencies based on your diversion efforts, for example, cars driven, or energy consumed in homes, to help everyone visualise the impact!