Spring 2023: New Mexico Compost Coalition launches statewide Community Composting Pilot
The New Mexico Compost Coalition is a network of businesses, 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.
Members of the NM Compost Coalition at the Opening of the Community Compost Co-op at the Agri-Nature Center
Society can achieve many benefits by redirecting organic waste from landfills to compost systems. Composting organic materials mitigates climate change by lowering CO2 and CH4 emissions, reduces strain on landfills, and prevents water contamination from toxic leachate produced by the anaerobic breakdown of organic material. When applied, compost enhances plant growth, reduces stormwater runoff and soil erosion, and improves soil fertility, structure, and H20 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, 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, and even in the larger cities where these services are available, price barriers exclude low-income households. At the same time, home composting is obstructed by lack of space, concerns about pests and wildlife, and need for education about how to compost.
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. In community composting systems, people don’t have to compost at their homes or pay for city-wide service, but instead drop food scraps off at managed sites in their own neighborhoods.
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 we seek to model it through organizational partnerships with strong management, education, and advocacy capacities. Seven members of the New Mexico Compost Coalition have volunteered to host community composting bins locations across the state.
By the end of the project, building on the successes of the seven pilot sites throughout New Mexico, we intend to offer a viable, proven model for community composting that we can help existing and future partners replicate throughout the state, transforming the harms of the existing food waste management systems into environmental, social, health, and economic benefits.
Resources for Community Compost Co-ops
Compost Bin Construction
Compost bins have been designed for arid environments and in consultation with Bernalillo County Master Composters to prevent moisture loss, odors, leakage, and pests. Feel free to download instructions and let us know if you have any feedback or improvements!
Builder Casey Williams and Compost Captain Linda Churchill with finished 3-bin community composting system
Community Compost Manual
Created by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation for their community compost co-op program (which is essentially the same as ours here in New Mexico), this manual goes over best practices, outreach, working with volunteers, common problems and much more.