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Study: What Could Get Us to Compost More?

A National Waste & Recycling Association-sponsored survey found that almost three-fourths of people polled currently don't compost, but that most would if they had an easy way to do it—as long as it’s cheap.

A survey sponsored by the National Waste & Recycling Association found that almost three-fourths of people polled currently don’t compost but that most would if they had an easy way to do it—as long as it’s cheap.

With more than 36 million tons of food waste produced each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it only makes sense to see composting as a solution to a really big problem.

But a far greater hurdle inhibiting an organics revolution may involve a lack of understanding by the American public about the value of such a change.

But how to get people to change their habits and turn composting from a nice idea into a way of life? A new study suggests that the challenge comes in making it easy—and inexpensive.

The Harris Interactive study, sponsored by the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), found that most Americans are open to the idea of composting but not so much to the idea of paying for it. Some highlights:

Most people don’t, but many would: One key highlight from the study is that 72 percent of respondents said they currently do not compost their food waste. But all is not lost—68 percent of those who don’t said they’d be willing to split up their organic waste into a separate bin if a community composting program was made available. And 79 percent of respondents who have gardens or yards said they would be willing to use composted materials to fertilize them.

Cost a factor: While many people surveyed were open to the idea of composting, most weren’t on board with the idea of paying more to do it. According to the study, 62 percent of respondents said they do not support an increase in the cost of waste service—whether through fees or taxes—to add a composting program.

An issue of perception: NWRA CEO Sharon H. Kneiss said the results suggest that the community and environmental benefits of composting aren’t clear to many consumers. “While America’s waste and recycling industry has developed innovative composting technologies, there are hurdles inhibiting such changes,” Kneiss said in a statement. “Challenges include the collection and transportation of food waste and the siting of food waste composting facilities more broadly. But a far greater hurdle inhibiting an organics revolution may involve a lack of understanding by the American public about the value of such a change.”

Those interested in seeing a composting program in their community need to “do more than lobby your local government officials or your community waste and recycling services provider to build such a program,” Kneiss said. “You need to support efforts to educate your neighbors about the value of composting food waste.”

(Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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