Through our network of community compost sites, the Kompost Kids offer a decentralized approach to community composting. We believe our model represents the future of municipal composting, or at least an important piece of the larger fabric of solutions that cities like Milwaukee will embrace to confront the significant economic, environmental, and logistical challenges of progressive waste management.
And the Institute for Local Self Reliance agrees. In recent reporting and public remarks, the leading sustainability think tank has come out strongly in favor of community composting schemes as integral to any long-term and universal organics disposal platform. Curbside subscription services like those in Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, and even nearby Oak Park, IL, are excellent, but they cost money (either through user fees or tax dollars) and still rely on long-haul trucking and fossil fuel consumption. On the other hand, large commercial compost facilities face significant cost and regulatory barriers to market entry and success. Community composting schemes will help close the geographic and service area gaps that will inevitably exist on the composting map until curbside becomes a universal offering or statewide organic disposal bans – as in Massachusetts and Vermont – become the order of the day.
Home Sites and Community Sites
Our all-volunteer model has to make choices, however, in terms of resource allocation and labor supply. As we grow and continue to expand our compost footprint around the city, our network must grow flexibly as well, in concert with our limited volunteer resources. We must distinguish the maintenance needs of our home sites and those of the larger network of community sites that we helped launch but need to operate semiautonomously, with community garden leaders and tenants taking over maintenance of the compost bins. Our home sites are higher-traffic sites, those that our couriers use, and where we host our public turnings a few times per month. We are committed to implementing a full maintenance flow – from regular turnings, site improvements, and compost harvesting – at these core sites. The list of home sites is subject to change, as future needs dictate, but right now, our highest-priority sites comprise three in River West and one on the South Side:
- Friends Community Garden at Auer and Gordon
- Scooter Foundation at Buffum and Wright
- ARTery at Keefe and Richards
- Bay View Hide House Community Garden at Burrell and Deer
One way we different from other community compost networks in Philadelphia, PA, Gainsville, FL, and other compost-friendly cities is that our sites our truly public, left unsupervised at all hours, and therefore, subject to forces outside our control. Contamination with plastic bags and other trash, uncovered contributions, and insufficient brown source use remain perennial concerns. But we feel strongly that the many advantages of open and inclusive community composting far outweigh these small drawbacks. Our model hopes to make composting as easy and convenient as possible, in the hope of drawing more residents and businesses into the movement.