Sustainable Princeton Creates NJ’s 1st Curbside Composting Community

Posted on November 7, 2013
students looking at compostStudents from the Community Park Elementary School investigating the residential food waste bin that is part of the Curbside Organics Program: Princeton Composts. (Photo courtesy: Sustainable Princeton)

Composting is among the best personal actions individuals can take to reduce landfill waste and prevent resulting greenhouse gas emissions. And lately, it’s getting easier to do so. Some large cities in the western U.S. now provide their residents with a weekly curbside collection of “organic” waste. This waste is composted into nutrient-rich soil, which is then either sold or made available to city residents.

Would such a service make sense in New Jersey? What would be the patterns of community participation? To find out, in June 2011, Sustainable Princeton launched Princeton Composts.

How it came together

“We were the first town in New Jersey to do curbside composting,” says Diane Landis, Executive Director of Sustainable Princeton. Over six months, 200 hundred residents composted 60 tons of organic waste, equaling $7,500 of savings in municipal trash disposal costs.

The project’s conclusions caught the eye of Sustainable Jersey, who awarded Princeton the Innovation Award as well as a $20,000 grant in 2012 to extend the program beyond the households currently participating.

“Princeton Composts is a model,” Landis explains. “Towns are calling us all the time. They want to replicate our program. We are being watched as we do this. It’s not new; it’s just new in New Jersey.”

The results

As of June 2013, this pilot program had signed 650 residential participants.  The Princeton Public Schools will be coordinating food waste collection beginning in the Fall of 2014, literally saving tons of organic matter from the landfills. Princeton Composts now costs $65/year to join. For that, residents receive:

  • a heavy-duty wheeled bin and a kitchen composter to keep,
  • unlimited compostable bags for their kitchen composter,
  • Wednesday weekly pick-up of all their organic waste (incl. kitchen scraps, pizza boxes, napkins, weeds, brush, etc.); and,
  • free access to the yard compost that results.

Princeton residents (non-campus) can register to participate through the Princeton municipal website. More information on this and other sustainable community innovations is available through Sustainable Princeton.

Topics: waste reduction