How Composting Programs Save Municipalities Money

How Composting Programs Save Municipalities Money

Nearly every municipality across the United States currently has some form of a composting initiative. These initiatives keep unnecessary waste such as leaves, grass and food excess out of landfills while providing dark, rich, organic soil for residential gardening. Typical composting is performed at a municipal yard and residents expend fuel and time to haul their materials to the site. In some cases, the municipality provides pickup. However, the best systems use “backyard composting,” which beneficially reuses the waste materials. With ever tightening budgets, municipal backyard composting programs are a great way for communities to become more environmentally conscious while saving money by decreasing landfill waste. Backyard composting programs typically involve a municipality providing compost bins to residents at a subsidized cost or even no charge. Municipalities typically set up compost programs in one of three ways:

  1. Pass on the complete cost of the compost bin to residents
  2. Charge residents a portion of the total cost
  3. Pay the complete amount of the compost bin for residents


Depending on the details of the local composting program, the participation rate, and the tipping fees charged in the area, payback periods may vary, but are routinely a year or less. As an example, we examine Waunakee, a village of 12,295 residents in south central Wisconsin. Other than being “The Only Waunakee in the World,” and difficult to pronounce, it is a typical Wisconsin village.

Using the average citizen waste of 4.43 lbs per day estimated by the US Census Bureau, a landfill tipping fee of $48 per ton from the Dane County Department of Public Works, Highway and Transportation and a relatively low compost bin use rate of 16%, it is easy to calculate the savings for the municipality (see Figure 1 for payback calculation results). It is recommended that Waunakee purchase 950 compost bins for its residents based on the number of citizens per household and the compost bin usage rate. Assuming the purchase price for the compost bins to be $18.50 each and the program is set up with no cost to residents (municipality subsidizes entire cost of bins) the payback to the municipality is less than one year with an initial cost of $17,575. If the residents of Waunakee were to co-pay $5 each for their compost bins the program payback from decreased tipping fees would be roughly eight months with an initial cost of $12,825. The calculations do not include decreased gas/vehicle maintenance for municipal trucks to the landfill which lead to even more cost savings for the participating municipality.

Municipal Composting Savings Chart

Green values are input based on municipality demographics and known values. Orange cells represent cost savings and payback periods. To access the complete composting payback calculation click this image.

As communities seek to save money, yet provide for the need of their residents, “backyard composting” programs offer a great way to draw attention to sustainable initiatives within the community.

This analysis was created by Presto Geosystems, the manufacturer of the Geobin® compost bin. The full version of this analysis can be downloaded from



“Dane County Landfill.” Landfill. Department of Public Works, Highway and Transportation Web. 05 Apr. 2013. <>

“How Green Was My Garbage Truck.” Waste360 Home Page. 1 May 2011. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. <>

“Municipal Solid Waste.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.<>

“USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.” USA QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.<>

Wright, Shawn. “Tipping Fees Vary across the U.S.” Waste & Recycling News : Login. Waste and Recycling News, 20 July 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <>

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