In May 1999, DEP completed a survey of Pennsylvanias 21 backyard composting programs. Fifteen counties with programs responded to the poll.
Most of the programs advertised and distributed composting bins to residents. Some programs offered coupons for bins or building materials, redeemable at local participating stores. Costs to residents ranged from no charge to $10 for bins or materials valued between $25 and $35.
All of the programs were conducted by counties, although not all programs were countywide. All were funded at least partially with Act 101 composting grants. Most programs conducted training on how to use the bins, and two counties distributed bins only to residents who attended a composting workshop or took a test to prove they had read the composting literature.
"The response has been outstanding. We have had school-age children to senior citizens stop in to purchase bins," commented the Erie County coordinator for the program held in Millcreek Township. The average participation rate was approximately one resident in 433. Three programs distributed bins to one resident in fewer than 100: Wayne Township in Clinton County, and Snyder and Jefferson counties.
The programs with the best participation rates had little in common as to type of bin offered, coupons or cost. They did, however, have these features in common:
Montgomery County, which has distributed bins for the past four years, also has a successful program. With one notable exception, it has all the hallmarks of the programs with the highest participation rates: The countys population is 680,000, the highest among the 15 counties that responded to the survey. The recycling coordinators comment is illuminating: "We are using a bin distribution as a carrot to entice people to learn about composting."
Coordinators in more populous communities appear to regard backyard composting as a public relations tool to increase support for their municipal composting programs. Melinda Kokus, who conducted the survey, agrees: "Waste reduction is not the goal of these programs. They make everyone involved feel good about composting and help to teach the basic how-to's."
Backyard composting appears to be an effective waste-reduction method in rural communities that can't afford collection programs, and where residents tend to have larger yards and gardens. In communities with more concentrated populations and smaller lawns, however, the municipal composting program is the waste reduction workhorse.
|*Blair||Hollidaysburg Borough||Blair Co. Dept. of Solid Waste|
|Butler||Butler County||Butler Co.|
|*Cambria||Cambria County||Cambria Co. Solid Waste Authority|
|Centre||Centre County||Centre Co.|
|*Chester||Chester County||Chester Co.|
|*Clearfield||Clearfield County||Clearfield Co. Solid Waste Authority|
|*Clinton||Clinton County||Clinton Co. Solid Waste Authority|
|Columbia||Town of Bloomsburg||Columbia Co.|
|*Erie||Millcreek Township||Millcreek Township Supervisors|
|*Jefferson||Jefferson County||Jefferson Co. Solid Waste Authority|
|*Lackawanna||Lackawanna County||Lackawanna Co. Recycling Center|
|Lawrence||New Castle||Lawrence Co., Dept. of Recycling & Solid Waste|
|*Lebanon||Lebanon County||Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority|
|*Lehigh||Lehigh County||Lehigh Co. Office of Solid Waste Mgmt.|
|*Lehigh||Allentown||City of Allentown, Bureau of Recycling & Solid Waste|
|Mercer||Mercer County||Mercer Co. Planning Commission|
|*Montgomery||Montgomery County||Montgomery Co. Cooperative Extension|
|*Snyder||Snyder County||Snyder Co. Solid Waste Authority|
|*Somerset||Somerset County||Somerset Co. Planning Commission|
|*Wayne||Wayne County||Wayne Co. Recycling Center|