Composting as a co-op Member

Q: How do I join the Co-Op (and start composting)?

To join the co-op you must attend a one-hour new member orientation. You may attend any orientation with a convenient time for you – regardless of where you ultimately choose to compost. You will then receive a link to sign the new member agreement in your email. 

Q: What’s in the member agreement?

You may view the whole membership agreement here: Lancaster Composting Co-Op Member Agreement.

Q: How do I access the bin at my site?

Each bin is secured with a combination lock. After attending your new member orientation (and signing the membership agreement) you will receive the lock code via email.

Q: How do I prepare my food scraps for composting (and use the bin)?

As a non-commercial composting system, we need to follow some additional guidelines. This keeps our compost bins happy and healthy. 

  1. Due to the design of the bins, please use only the far left-side compartment for fresh food scraps. 
  2. Before adding food scraps to the bin, break them into small pieces. This speeds up the composting process. For example, cut watermelon rinds into one-inch chunks. Hard pits (avocados, peaches, etc.) should not be added to the bins. 
  3. Cover your wet ‘greens’ (nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps) with dry ‘browns’ (fallen leaves, non-glossy paper, cardboard). This reduces odor.
  4. The following guidelines show what can and cannot be composted in the co-op bins. This information is also posted on the side of each bin.

Q: How can I store food scraps at home?

It is up to you. A popular method is keeping them in the freezer until you’re ready for a trip to the bin. Others keep a bucket on the kitchen counter and swing by more frequently.

Q: What happens to the finished compost?

On average, it takes about 6 months to create finished compost that is suitable as a soil amendment. Site co-members decide what to do with the finished compost. Take some home or donate it to a local community garden.

Q: What else is required of me as a member?

For the benefit of using the bins, co-op members are asked to participate in a 1-hour ‘work social’ each month. These work days are for turning, adding to and sifting bin compost. That, and performing any necessary bin maintenance. Work days are also a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and fellow co-op members. 

Q. What should I bring to a work day?
If possible, bring gardening gloves, shovels, pitchforks and hand trowels. If not, some will be provided. And if you have food scraps to drop off, bring those too.


Bin Details

Q: Do the bins smell? Do they attract critters? How are they made?

The co-ops compost bins are modeled after the designs implemented by Joshua Singer and the Washington DC Department of Parks and Recreation. The DC Community Compost Cooperative Network has over 50 active bins in the DC area.

Each bin:

  1. Has a 200 square foot footprint. 
  2. Is made from heavy-duty plywood.
  3. Has a metal lid.
  4. Has three locked compartments with removable front panels – allowing compost to be turned and moved during different stages of processing.
  5. Can handle the organic waste from approximately 70 households.
  6. Is 100% smell proof.
  7. Is 100% rodent proof.

Learn more about the DC Community Compost Cooperative Network here

Sign up for the excellent DC Urban Gardeners newsletter here.

Q: How accessible are the bins?

Due to their durable construction, bin lids are quite heavy. As such, you may wish to bring a friend (or reach out to a fellow member) to help. Design modifications are in the works for making the bins easier to open .

Q: How much can each bin accommodate?
The bins we estimate can accommodate the waste from 70 individual households.


Information on the Co-Ops

Q: When did Lancaster Composting Co-Ops launch?

We launched in April 2021 (during Earth Week). 

Q: What is the Lancaster Compost Co-Ops? long-term vision?

The co-ops goal is to make composting accessible to everyone in Lancaster City. There are currently five active bin sites: Musser Park, the Lancaster Recycling Drop-Off Center on New Holland Ave, in the SOWE neighborhood behind Culliton Park, Northwest Corridor Linear Park, and Buchanan Park. Future bins will be located in an effort to serve the full diversity of the city’s residents and neighborhoods. Potential sites include designated community gardens, city parks and private properties willing to host a bin. 

Q: What is the “status” of the Co- Op?

The Co- Op is entirely volunteer-run and community-led. 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. 

Q: What is the role of the composting captain?

Co-op sites are run by ‘Compost Captains.’ Compost Captains are responsible for managing the site – an investment of about 3-8 hours per month. Captains help to maintain the bin and compost quality, run new member orientations and organize monthly work socials. 

Captains are trained in composting best-practices and are supported by the municipal coordinator. However, each bin is run independently. As such, Compost Captains (along with co-op members) may also establish their own rules for each site.

Q: What opportunities are there to get involved with the co-op?

As a purely volunteer organization, we are always looking for help and additional ways to extend the co-op’s service. For example, one member (who is Public Relations professional) generously donated her time to build a press kit. Franklin & Marshall students are also helping to do research about composting.

If you are interested in:

  1. Being a Compost Captain
  2. Event planning
  3. Technical / engineering work
  4. Community building and partnership
  5. Scientific research

… please contact us.

Q: How can I stay up to date with the co-op?

Stay up to date with the latest news via our Instagram and private Facebook group 


General Composting Information

Q: What is compost? How is it made?

Penn State Extension Services calls compost “organic matter that has decomposed into a form that plants can use. Compost can be used in potting mixes or mixed in with garden soil. It has many benefits for your plants and recycles materials that may otherwise be thrown into landfills.”  

Here’s a handy visual (Provided by PBS Nature) demonstrating the composting process:

Q: What are the benefits of composting?

Composting has many benefits. Some of these include rejuvenating soils, reducing climate change, cleaning waterways, creating jobs and fostering a stronger community. For more information on the benefits of composting, check out:

Institute For Local Self Reliance


Q: How can I get children excited about composting?

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals comes highly reccomended.