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Developing a Robust Curbside Composting Program with Behavioral Science

Investigator: Duke University

Start Date: Mar 2021

Award Amount: $150,000

In the US, nearly one third of food intended for consumption is wasted each year. The majority of this food waste ends up in landfills, resulting in extensive municipal financial costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and health risks for nearby residents. One potential solution to address food waste is through composting, but there is a lack of sound research evidence demonstrating the most effective and impactful way for municipalities to offer a curbside composting service.

We plan to help implement and evaluate a municipal curbside composting program with the city of Durham, NC. This work will aim to inform sustainable municipal policy and practice with regard to solid waste management.

The research objectives of this evaluation include:

  1. Understand how behavioral strategies can encourage participation in curbside composting
  2. Evaluate the impact of a curbside composting program on trash (landfill-bound) volume
  3. Design and demonstrate effective strategies to minimize contamination in compost collections
  4. Test and evaluate the extent to which participation in municipal composting promotes other pro-social and pro-environmental attitudes and behavior