Composting opportunities for the city of Austin
Composting is commonly thought of as practices urban residents can do as part of living sustainably in cities. However, it is also an effective strategy cities can reduce landfilling and move towards Zero Waste. A number of North American cities have already developed residential curbside composting programs, which collect and processes yard and food waste to create compost. The city of Austin is in the process of passing an Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan as a means of working towards its Zero Waste goal. Included in this plan is the charge to begin creating a residential composting pilot. To assist in these efforts, I researched the opportunities the City of Austin has for developing a residential composting program. Using a framework of sustainability, I focus on how the city can create a program that addresses issues of equity. Through interviews with representatives of cities with composting programs and local stakeholders, I identify a number of best practices and recommendations. These interviews also outline methods to address equity through increasing outreach, participation, access to the final compost product as well as incorporating input into program design. First, I begin with a brief history of waste management to examine the social drivers that prompt the creation of waste diversion programs. Then, I identify variables that influence individual behaviors with a review of the consumer behavior literature. Next, I provide an overview of what is currently happening in Austin and explain my organizing framework of sustainability. After outlining my methods, I present the findings of my interviews. Then, I discuss eight proposals the City of Austin could use to develop its residential composting program. Lastly, I conclude by identifying opportunities for future research.