Data and Citizen Engagement: Curbside Food Composting Part 2


(Image from Grid Magazine)

Last week I described the basics about a citizen engagement project for introducing curbside food composting.  Now that my spring semester in data science has concluded, I plan to work on this project in my spare time this summer. Today I will talk about the challenges, opportunities and how to measure project success.

Since composting food has never been done, there are of course several risks and opportunities. The Hybla Valley region of Alexandria is serviced by multiple trash collectors and has multiple neighborhoods (some governed by homeowners’ associations and others managed by apartment properties companies). Getting the word out can take time and consistent energy from citizen volunteers and other interested parties. If citizens are going to pay for a service, they have to believe it will be worthwhile for them.

  • Opportunities to leverage successful food composting collection programs elsewhere such as in the City of Denver ($9.67/month), Columbus ($16/month) and Minneapolis (no extra charge for citizens) will be key to maximize the potential success of the project.
  • The 2014 Guide To Community Composting by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is also an excellent reference resource.

This citizen engagement project will be considered successful if a food composting collection program is implemented in the Hybla Valley region of Alexandria, Virginia by 2022 (within the next five years). The amount of waste diverted from the landfills is a key metric that will be used to evaluate success. The compost collection company will measure and report on this metric to the citizens and representatives from Fairfax County government. For sustainability of the program, having citizen and local government buy-in is key. Periodically reporting on the data is an essential part of how the project will be evaluated.

I dabbled in learning an animating open source software, Powtoon to create this 45 second promotional video for the project. Let me know what you think of it or if you have success stories of implementing food composting pick up in your town.

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