Philadelphia plans to create a citywide network of up to 25 composting sites, designed to reduce food waste and create organic soil for residents to use for gardens and crops. The Parks and Recreation Department and Office of Sustainability is seeking applicants to host the sites, preferably be located on city-owned land used by urban farms, civic organizations, community gardens, recreation facilities, or schools. The Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet is also participating.

Ideally, composting sites would be spread evenly across the city, rather than concentrated in any one area. Residents would bring their food and yard waste to a location near their neighborhoods. Soil created after the waste breaks down would then be used within those communities. The city hopes to identify between 20 and 25 locations in the coming months. Ash Richards, who will oversee the Philadelphia Community Composting Network program, believes some composting sites can be set up as soon as late summer or fall. “We want community groups to participate,” Richards said Wednesday. Applicants who are chosen to host facilities would be responsible for maintaining them and distributing the compost. “Ultimately, we want residents and folks who have agricultural projects to have access to land and grow nutrient-rich food. So we want them to have nutrient-rich soil.”

The composting bins will be built by city workers, along with members of the Parks and Recreation Power Corps. The bins will be uniform wooden structures that are rodent- and critter-proof. Richards said city-owned land being used by groups would be the best fit to host a site, but private property would be acceptable as long as a group has permission from the owner. Richards, director of urban agriculture under Parks and Recreation, said the hope is that groups take food waste from schools, churches, restaurants, and other institutions.

Officials will spend the summer looking for a consultant to develop a training manual for groups hosting a compost site. The groups will have to know what type of food scraps would be acceptable (no meat or citrus, for example), as well as how to work the three-bin system and distribute the compost.

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