How do we design high-impact municipal residential composting programs?

Manhattan, New York
Raised of $5,000 Goal
Ended on 11/28/23
Campaign Ended
  • $50
  • 1%
  • Finished
    on 11/28/23

About This Project

Food waste management is a major challenge and a significant contributor to US and global greenhouse gases. In the US, food waste contributes the equivalent of 42 coal fired power plants in C02e, each year.

I will conduct a survey of stakeholders who design and operate successful municipal residential composting programs to determine best practices in design, operation, and environmental impact measurement, and make recommendations that will help advance best practice.

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What is the context of this research?

Composting programs are challenging in diverse modern cities where citizens lead busy lives, may be used to mixing food waste with other forms of waste, and live in a variety of building types, many of which have little or no infrastructure or resources for collecting and processing food waste in an efficient or hygienic way (think rats and insects).

Measuring the environmental impact of composting programs is also challenging, with minimal peer-reviewed research existing regarding the lifecycle environmental impacts of different program design decisions and food waste treatment technologies and processes.

What is the significance of this project?

This research will survey existing efforts to share best practices and help spark thinking and new ideas regarding how to engage citizens in composting in a way that measurably reduces the environmental impact of local food systems.

According to peer-reviewed research, factors that makes a municipal residential composting program successful, or unsuccessful, include the following. These factors will be used to develop initial open ended research questions as well as to code results, and to make recommendations:

Clear commitment

User friendly processes

Mandatory participation

Financial incentives

Education campaigns

Rigorous metrics

An unsuccessful program, by contrast, typically suffers from:

Overwhelming volume

Overwhelming cost

Low participation

Processing challenges

What are the goals of the project?

I will conduct secondary research and depth interviews with program operators from 6-8 municipalities with successful programs, and then code and summarize the results, and make recommendations. This will help to elicit key success factors, common barriers to adoption, impacts of technology choice and waste treatment methods, and current methods for measuring the environmental impact of municipal residential composting programs.

This research should enable program design decisions that are aligned with, and advance, best practices, while making residential composting as easy and impactful as possible for citizens.

Time permitting we will also look briefly at how consumer education and choice in food shopping can affect downstream impacts of a municipal residential composting program.


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This budget will allow me to conduct a rigorous qualitative study, carefully code and compile and summarize the results, and disseminate them widely for broad public consumption and usage.

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Project Timeline

1. Conduct research and compile results in November and December

2. Publish results to media in January, February, March

Sep 19, 2023

Project Launched

Oct 29, 2023

Project Launched

Dec 31, 2023

1. Conduct research, code, compile, and write-up results

Mar 31, 2024

2. Publish results to media, share with policymakers

Meet the Team

Jeremy Osborn
Jeremy Osborn

Jeremy Osborn

Jeremy Osborn is a sustainability professional, a Dad, and a Canadian living New York City, where a new composting mandate is about to be signed by the mayor! He has been working in sustainability and sustainable business for about 20 years. He grew between the great Canadian prairies and the temperate rainforests of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Like everyone living in New York, he loves all things food related, especially the eating part.

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  • $50.00Average Donation
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