Data and Citizen Engagement: Curbside Food Composting Part 1

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Today I want to continue to discuss how data and citizen engagement can make a social impact on a local level. The last two weeks I’ve talked in broad terms about the role of data and technology in citizen engagement and how citizens can drive developmental change. If you’re new to my blog, you may not know my passion about food-related topics that I have written about since October 2015. I wanted to combine my passion for using data to make a positive social impact so for my Citizen Engagement MOOC, I chose to propose a pilot project for bringing curbside food composting services to Alexandria, Virginia. Today I want to give a bit of background about the proposal and the necessary partners.

Food composting collection programs served over 2.8 million households nationwide in 2014 and Americans recovered over 23 million tons of waste through composting. The goal of my project is to bring food composting collection services to the Hybla Valley region of Alexandria, Virginia, which is home to just over 33,000 people and over 12 locally-owned restaurants. Implementing a formal food compost collection mechanism would be the first in the state of Virginia. There is currently sparse information as to how many residents are composting on their own initiative in their backyards. A formal collection program has the potential to increase participation exponentially. The initiative will be led by and paid for by concerned citizens. The initiative will help divert wasted food and food scraps from landfills and therefore reducing our overall carbon footprint.

A key to success will be finding dedicated citizens to lead the effort and to coordinate with local waste management organizations. I am not currently aware of any efforts to bring food composting collection to the region.

  • The target audience are all residents of Hybla Valley that will be recruited using a marketing and education campaign. Since the region contains condominiums, townhomes, multi-level apartment complexes, single family homes, businesses and places of worship, there is a huge opportunity to spread the word to get the minimum 500 threshold to request composting services.
  • Partnering with an organizations such as the Clean Fairfax Council will be important to achieve project goals. Clean Fairfax Council serves as a 501c nonprofit dedicated to educating residents, students and businesses in Fairfax County about litter prevention and recycling.

Fairfax County in which the Hybla Valley region of Alexandria, VA is located, currently has an agreement to compost yard waste (grass, tree branches, etc) with Freestate Farms. There are plans to construct a new composting facility at Freestate Farms that is planned to open in July 2017 and will have the capacity to process food scraps.

  • A private for-profit company called Compost Now offers services for a fee when 500 households have signed up for it. Developing and implementing an education and awareness campaign will be key to gain support for the project.
  • The initiative will work once a formal agreement has been reached between the composting company and the neighbors.
(Image by Home Composting Made Easy)
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