Why Composting In the City of Lancaster 

Many cities in the US have adopted residential compost pickup programs as a standard city service. Numerous other cities have independent programs for compost pick-up that are run as social enterprises, cooperatives, or simply independent businesses. 

However, in Lancaster, the residential waste stream predominantly ends up in the waste-to-energy facility managed by LCSWMA. Beyond doing it in their own homes and yard, residents have zero options – for-profit or non-profit – to compost their food scraps and materials in the City or county. 

Furthermore, composting at home with backyard bins can be complicated and challenging, especially for urban residents who often lack green space. 

Benefits of Composting

Creating a nutrient-rich soil (enhancer) is just one benefit of composting. In fact, residents will gain a multitude of social, economic and environmental benefits, including:

Strengthen the community: 

  • Increased engagement citizens in art, environmentally-related conversations, and bring people together with a shared sense of purpose and neighborhood stewardship.

Reducing city costs: 

  • Between food waste (14%), yard trimmings (13%) and non-recyclable paper (6%), a total of 33% of our municipal waste stream is compostable, according to data from the US EPA. Local data, applying the EPA’s 14% food waste estimate to solid waste, suggests that approximately 30,446 pounds of household solid waste could be diverted from the system in 2016 with widespread composting in place. 

Creating economic opportunities:

  • While this initiative is community led, composting does provide a potential revenue stream is lost, as composting is one of the rare businesses in which revenue can be gained at the front and back ends of the industry (e.g. fees for compost pick-up as well as sales of finished compost).

Address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas initiatives: 

  • Organic waste in landfills generates, methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced. Furthermore, it enriches the region’s soil, strengthens sustainable food productions, and helps to complete the food cycle. 
  • In addition, it reduces the reliance on synthetic, petroleum-based fertilizers as well as pesticides by generating a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Check out this infographic for more detail. 

History of Lancaster Compost Co-Ops

The initial phase of this project is generously funded by a seed grant from Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster, a partnership between Franklin & Marshall College and diverse constituencies in Lancaster County. 

Officially launched on Earth week in April 2021, the project lead for the initiative is Eve Bratman, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Franklin & Marshall College. She previously served as the Chair of the City of Lancaster Planning Commission. 

Spurred by the lack of opportunities for composting, a team of community members have been developing this project since 2018, gradually developing momentum and collecting input. Conversations with various local organizations and businesses, including the City of Lancaster, Regenerate Lancaster, and Urban Edge Farm / Susquehanna Sustainable Enterprises, were involved. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are excited to build a greener Lancaster together with you through this initiative!

Lancaster Compost Co-Ops does include a research component. We are interested in assessing and fostering equitable public engagement in environmental issues and strengthening community collaboration across Lancaster’s diverse populations. We hope to identify strategies to simultaneously reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Lancaster.