Lancaster Composting Co-Ops is a volunteer-led community initiative that enables Lancaster, Pennsylvania residents to participate in reducing landfill waste by creating high quality compost. Prior to the launch of this project in April 2021, Lancaster residents had zero alternatives beyond their own backyards to divert their food and garden scraps from the general waste stream. Most of the city’s trash is combusted at the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority’s waste-to-energy plant. The project lead for the Co-ops initiative is Eve Bratman, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. The initial phase of the project was funded by a seed grant from Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster, a partnership between Franklin & Marshall College and diverse constituencies in Lancaster County.
To join the co-op, residents must first attend a one-hour new member orientation, after which they can sign up and receive a code to unlock the bin at the location they choose to drop off their food scraps. Vegetative food waste, small amounts of yard trimmings, and shredded uncoated paper are accepted. Each drop-off location (five in total) has a 3-bin composting system. Members are asked to volunteer for a one-hour shift once a month to help manage the compost bins. Finished compost is used by co-op members and/or donated to community gardens.
Lancaster Compost Co-Ops also includes 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,” says Eve Bratman. “We hope to identify strategies to simultaneously reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Lancaster.”