New Mexico Compost Coalition launches statewide Community Composting Pilot

posted in: Climate Change, Compost | 0
Members of Culliton Park Co-op site in Lancaster, PA during work/ social hour. Image credit  Lancaster Compost Coop

The simple act of composting enables us to mitigate climate change by keeping organic materials out of landfills where they produce methane and other greenhouse gases. Compost on the other hand builds soil which sequesters legacy emissions—making composting a win-win solution!

If that wasn’t enough, there are even more co-benefits to the practice. Composting organic materials reduces strain on overflowing landfills and prevents water contamination from toxic leachate produced by the anaerobic breakdown of organic waste. When applied, compost enhances plant growth, reduces stormwater runoff and soil erosion, and improves soil fertility, structure, and water retention.

Despite the multiple benefits that composting brings, the practice is severely underutilized. According to the EPA, just 8.5% of municipal solid waste is composted nationwide, even though more than 50% of municipal waste in the U.S is compostable: 23% paper and cardboard, 22% food, and 12% yard trimmings.

In New Mexico, low population density makes compost collection services economically unfeasible in most parts of the state. Even in the larger cities, budget constraints limit the viability of municipal curbside compost pick-up programs. There are only a handful of commercial composting facilities in the state—not nearly enough to meet demand—and where those services are available, price barriers exclude low-income households. Home composting is often obstructed by lack of space, a need for education, concerns about pests and wildlife and challenges due to our arid environment.

To make composting more accessible, the New Mexico Compost Coalition aims to fill the “missing middle” between home composting and municipal composting by establishing a replicable approach to arid-land community composting. The pilot program is launching in the spring of 2023, made possible through the New Mexico Department of the Environment’s Recycling and Illegal Dumping Fund.

The New Mexico Compost Coalition is a statewide network of municipalities, non-profit organizations, researchers and agency representatives seeking to turn food waste into a beneficial resource through partnerships and cooperative approaches. The coalition is facilitated by New Mexico Healthy Soil and welcomes new members. If interested, please contact Isabelle Jenniches.

Why Community Composting?

In community composting systems, people drop food scraps off at managed sites in their own neighborhoods and are invited to take an active role in compost production and application. This creates closed-loop nutrient cycles, supporting healthy local ecologies as well as increased crop production and food access. → Learn more about Community Composting

Cities including Washington, D.C. and Lancaster, PA, have rolled out community compost initiatives with great success. Community composting has not yet been tried in New Mexico, which is why the NM Compost Coalition is modeling it through organizational partnerships with strong management, education, and advocacy capacities.

A custom three-bin system tailored to our arid environment has been developed in consultation with the Bernalillo Master Composters, designed to prevent moisture loss, odors, leakage, and pests. One bin system can serve up to 75 households.

The first set of community composting bins will be hosted at community gardens and educational centers across the state: the Agri-Nature Center in the Village of Los Ranchos, Barelas Senior Center and North Valley Senior Center (Albuquerque), Pueblo Resurgents (Pueblo of Isleta), Santa Fe Botanical Garden and Santa Fe County Master Gardeners, and Backyard Farms (Las Cruces).

Work day at Lancaster City Recycling facility. Members sifted compost that was fully ready and turned other materials that were work in progress. Image credit  Lancaster Compost Coop

Each of the host sites will engage communities through brief training sessions to show how the composting program works. Upon completion of the training, individuals can join the site’s compost cooperative free of charge. During regular workshops participants manage the bins under guidance of a local compost captain, process and apply finished compost and socialize. Each site self-determines whether to use the produced compost on-site, distribute the compost among participants—or even sell it for revenue.

Record-keeping and data collection at the sites aims to quantify landfill diversion, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and carbon sequestration benefits.

Building on the successes of these seven pilots, the New Mexico Compost Coalition intends to offer a viable, proven model for community composting that can be replicated throughout the state, transforming the harms of the existing food waste management systems into environmental, social, health, and economic benefits.

You are invited! Grand Opening Community Compost Coop on Saturday April 8, 2023 at 11 AM  – 1 PM
Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center, 4920 Rio Grande Blvd NW
Membership orientation and socializing! Music by Old-Time Pharmaceuticals and snacks by Cleo’s Blue Corn Kitchen.
Bring your food scraps to add to the compost!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *