From a sustainability perspective. Is it better to let the city handle the organic waste or compost yourself locally when possible?

I'd suspect city's larger scale organic waste management facilities (bigger composts?) might be more efficient, but there is of course logistics involved. Is distributed or centralized better here?

  • 3
    Do you have any constraints at home? Limited yard space? Apartment/condo? Do you have plants / beds where you can spread the compost after it's finished? What kind of soil do you have (clay, rich)?
    – Nate
    May 26, 2013 at 2:20
  • If the city is driving a truck by your house regularly to pick up organic waste from your neighbors, then it's probably most efficient to let them pick up yours too since adding your compost to the truck and to their compost facility requires very little additional resources. If you're driving it to the city compost center or they are going out of their way to pick up your compost, then it's not as clear - especially if you'd have to replace the use of compost in your garden with store-bought compost or other supplies.
    – Johnny
    Dec 11, 2013 at 1:15

2 Answers 2


Size does make a big difference to compost: once you're into the scale of many cubic metres, you get very hot, very fast composting. That will kill seeds and pathogens, and thus enable composting of a larger proportion of materials.

Communal handling also gives the opportunity for the wider distribution of low-cost high-quality compost.

So there are advantages to communal waste handling.

On the other hand, composting in your own garden will remove all the communal motorised collection and processing of waste from the equation. In most cases, that will outweigh the advantages of communal waste handling.

However, if the communal waste handling is done by very low impact vehicles, or if you've got very large amounts of organic matter that won't get broken down in a smaller compost heap, or you simply wouldn't have the space for your own compost heap, then the communal heap might just have the edge.

  • 1
    I think it's worth a note that many cities already employ the vehicles to collect/distribute. So while the vehicles may not be globally optimal adding your own load to an existing system is a minimal cost.
    – Meep
    Dec 11, 2013 at 21:33

I let the city take my cooked food waist as it is hard to compost myself without issues with rats etc. I compost my own grass clipping etc, as they are easy to compost and are most of the volume.

Transport always uses power, composting at home does not, so if you have the space it is clearly best to compost most items at home when practical.

If you have the space just keep a pile of brown leafs and mix them into your grass cutting, then put the mix into a big “builders bag” to sit for a few years. If compost has enough “browns” in it, then it does not need turning etc unless you wish to speed up the process. Too much greens (grass clippings) give issues with smell etc, too much browns just slows down the composting process.

  • Nice answer, but "sit for a few years"!?
    – THelper
    Dec 10, 2013 at 20:49
  • I find I have a lot of “inputs” at the end of the summer from clearing the bedding plants, and use most compost when planting in the spring. So unless it can be composted over the winter, it might as well take over a year. As I have the space, I am lazy about trying to make compost fast. Dec 10, 2013 at 21:27

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