In the city of Durham, North Carolina, roughly 30% of the garbage residents throw away is compostable. Two-thirds of that is food scraps (the rest comes from paper products). The problem: like most municipalities, the city doesn’t offer a residential composting program. And not everyone has space or desire to build their own slightly stinky backyard bins. So earlier this summer, Durham started prototyping how to solve its problem on a citywide scale.

The idea is to start super small and learn quickly. Before launching the program, Durham figured out if it was economically feasible and even desirable. It discovered that yard waste collectors could probably cart away kitchen and other household waste just as easily. Combine that with some nitrogen-rich “biosolids” from the municipal water treatment plant, and you’d have a nitrogen-rich slurry that decomposed quickly. A survey of several thousand residents also showed…
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