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| be Waste Wise | March 23, 2023

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Successful City-Wide Composting Programs

Successful city-wide composting programs

Organized at 3 PM GMT on 9th December, 2015



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Ranjith Annepu moderated the panel

Madhumitha Rajendran performed research and put together this quick summary of the panel and some of her favourite quotes


STEPHEN WISERicardo Energy & Environment

Composting in its different forms is a practical way of delivering the steps required to achieve waste management.

  • Historically public health and sanitation issues made developed countries start composting

Be aware of the end market will for your compost – is it going to be agriculture or greening the cities, or horticulture within the city context.

  • Infrastructure for waste collection in developing countries is very poor
  • In the US, sewage sludge is composted or digested and is taken by train to the heart of the agriculture area
  • It is better to not have a lot of logistics – so, put your facility in the correct place

Over the last 10 years, we have been moving from simpler and open windrow composting to much more sophisticated systems and more recently, anaerobic digestion has taken off in a large way.

  • Anaerobic digestion generates biogas, so we are getting energy and electricity. The gas could also be included in gas grids
  • In UK, we see larger centralized facilities and smaller facilities, generating compost on the farm. One size does not fit all!


In developing countries, composting is accepted as state-of-the-art knowledge that you can fall back on to. It is a less complicated & easy technological solution to try to solve some of the problems.

  • Besides regulation, it is often the pressure of lack of landfill space that pushes municipalities to think or recycling or composting
  • In developing countries, more than half of the waste is organic waste and it could go all the way up to 90%
  • In developing countries, there is usually(political and social) pressure because of smelling landfills, so they are searching for whatever alternatives that comes in their path

Municipal officers are blinded by the vision of composting solving all their problems!

  • Markets for compost are not well-developed. It is also difficult since farmers are mostly not in the city.
  • You need to make sure your operations are financially sustainable – having a financial system in place either from the municipal budget, or being part of the waste management budget
  • Start off with low hanging fruits – ideally you want source segregated organic waste
  • Rather than targeting household waste from the start (which is the most complex), start with vegetable markets, food processing industry and restaurants

Typically, the financial incentive for composting is often the one that has a lot of impact.

  • If we keep building it into schools & children, maybe they will segregate without incentives
  • Incentive need not necessarily be financial, it could also be social

The carbon stored is not considered, but what could be considered as carbon credit is the substitute for fertilizer.


  1. In ‘Successful City Wide Composting Programs’ there was no mention of the use of microbes to increase the range of applications and value of compost generation from undesirable organic municipal waste? Do you have further information on this please?

    For background, I’m in Townsville which is a regional council of 200,000 persons with very low density, some sugar can farming nearby, in a dry tropic environment where water shortage is a problem in drinking water and in soils.

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