Can Small-Scale Compost Entrepreneurs Circumvent the NIMBYs?

Jacob Levine/CC BY-SA 2.0

I've posted videos about large-scale industrial composting facilities before. But while the waste- and emissions-reduction and soil conservation benefits are undeniable, there is a major obstacle to such large operations—neighbors. A quick "news" search on Google of "composting" reveals that the majority of stories involve neighbors up in arms about a composting site situated near them.

From compost-specific fears over "deadly air-borne spores", to the usual worries about noise and traffic that accompany any industrial-scale development, I've read just about any and every objection imaginable to big composting operations around the country. And while I—unsurprisingly, given the blog I write for—tend to think that composting is better than most alternatives, I do have some sympathy for folks who face any such development in their vicinity.

But there is an alternative.

I wrote before about a crowd-funded compost shuttle service in Raleigh, North Carolina—and now AZCentral.com has a profile of a similar small-scale compost service operator in Phoenix:

Through his business, AZ Valley Compost, Williams is working with residents in central Phoenix to accrue all of their organic, compostable garbage that, after treating it with heat, humidity and fertilizer, he transforms into food for the earth and plants.

Green-minded residents who buy into his mission and his cooperative pay $19.99 a month for Williams to pick up a bucket filled with kitchen waste each week and leave a clean pail to collect more waste. From there, Williams hauls off the buckets to fill giant compost bins he stores at some urban gardens, including the Growhouse near Roosevelt and Sixth streets.

Of course the efficiency of hauling around buckets of food waste in a truck (I am presuming AZ Valley Compost use a truck) is not optimal, but I do like the idea of keeping the nutrient-cycle as close as possible. As urban gardens proliferate, why not combine them with well-managed, small-scale composting operations? We've even seen one initiative championing bicycle-based compost collection (which is practically a TreeHugger's ultimate fantasy business!).

Combined with indoor composting, large-scale closed composters, backyard hens, backyard composting and a more frugal attitude to food waste in general, it seems we could make a significant dent in our organic waste problem without any need to piss off the neighbors.

All it takes is a little entrepreneurial spirit, and a willingness to see resources where others see waste. Any other small-scale compost entrepreneurs (compostreneurs?) that we should know about?

Tags: Activism | Arizona | Communities | Community Gardens | Composting | United States