Not In My Backyard?
June 15, 2013, 9:17 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

OK, if not there, how about in some corner of your community?


It’s this simple: Composting your kitchen, yard and garden wastes would reduce landfill space and the taxes that must be collected to pay the waste disposal companies, and the finished compost will improve your garden soil’s health. From prisons to schools, and from churches to neighborhoods, composting efforts have begun to expand as people are beginning to recognize the value of all those organic materials that they’ve been throwing away all this time. If you can’t or don’t want to build your own compost bin, perhaps you’d take it to a central collection point that’s not in your backyard? Evidently, there’s a growing awareness of the value of compost. We had a recycling revolution, now we need a composting revolution.

I read an article about a suburban neighborhood that had decided to start their own community composting system. The 8 families involved lived in a cul-de-sac with a center island of weeds and grass that no one wanted to maintain. So they put the little space to good use and built some nice compost bins-everyone chipped in a bit of cash to buy the lumber and wire and then they spent a pleasant afternoon building the bins. Afterwards, they shared a potluck supper and consecrated the new bins with their leftovers. I loved the idea and have since learned that communities across the UK and the US have started  communal compost facilities.  This kind of compost-and-community building is one that is adaptable to all kinds of living and gardening situations- from condominium complexes, public housing projects or McMansion neighborhoods- to community or private garden sites.

Community-Compost_Chippendale5            Communal compost bins can range from fancy store bought compost tumblers to cinder blocks that are dry stacked. I like the bins shown in these pictures, but the possibilities are limited only be imagination.

Speaking of imagination: Will Allen, the man behind Growing Power, a nonprofit organization that teaches the citizens of Milwaukee, WI how to grow their own fresh food (even in the dead of winter!) has a huge community composting system that collects over 43 MILLION pounds of waste per year, from their local coffee shops and breweries, grocery stores and co-ops. That’s Mr. Allen below: King of the Compost Mountain. Oh yeah, he was also awarded the freaking McArthur Genius Award last year for his efforts. That’s right, Genius.


New York City has many communal composting facilities and sells the finished compost back to its’ residents under the tongue-in-cheek name of ‘Paydirt’. The program offers classes and workshops on indoor (vermicomposting) and outdoor composting, a compost hotline (1-800-POOP?), a Compost Map of places you can drop your deposits and even offers a “Master Composter Training Program”!

But just this past April, my local County Commission approved a $5.9 million, 10-year agreement with Waste Management to send its solid waste to Johnson City-owned Iris Glen Environmental Landfill. Solid waste INCLUDES food scraps (garbage), yard and garden waste. And I love that name: Iris Glen Environmental Landfill. *snort* Makes it sound all flowery or something doesn’t it? Have you been there? It ain’t flowery, trust me!

Now all of my regular readers should know by now how much I love me some Johnson City, TN, but we are really dropping the ball on city-wide and community-led composting efforts here. If my personal efforts of dumping my kitchen waste, grass clippings and shredded leaves into a couple of cheap backyard bins can produce enough rich, fertile compost to keep my intensively-raised vegetable growing beds in good health year after year after year, IMAGINE what a city-led effort could do!            

In response to the problems created by an economy in crisis and an uncertain  energy future, (the war drums are beating AGAIN damnit!) we must transition to a more resilient lifestyle. Using the waste in our lives to make compost that will then enable individuals and farmers to grow healthy food without the chemical fertilizers currently being used to do so is just one more way to kill two birds with one stone. For those of us living in urban and suburban areas, collectively making the stuff could be the best way to go. If you agree, please let our county and city council members know this is a concern and a possible solution. They’re really tired of hearing from me. And besides, then it wouldn’t be in YOUR backyard, it would be in OUR backyard.





2 Comments so far
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I started a compost bin not too long ago and am so excited for it. I am only using a small plastic tub since I reside in a condo but still the fact that I can put our food scraps to use makes me feel good. I am starting a garden with all my plants in pots since I have only a concrete patio. I am in a city where nothing is recycled really and it is unfortunate. My neighbor is composting as well and she wants to see if we can get others in our community on the same page and start having a co-op sort of thing with fruits and veggies that we grow.

Comment by chellieflores

Good luck with your composting and gardening efforts chellieflores! A co-op like your neighbor suggests would be wonderful! You could grow the cucumbers in your pots, and she could grow the potatoes and someone else could grow the tomatoes and then ya’ll could all trade and each come out ahead! Have fun!

Comment by simpleintn

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