I was interested in practical responses to pending peak oil. Municipalities and businesses spend a fair amount of money on garbage disposal, part of this is directly related to fuel costs.
I wanted to see how effectively local composting could help a small business reduce its garbage on a daily basis as a demonstration of how diverting organics from landfills could help similar businesses and municipalities at large reduce costs in the face of peak oil.
So, living very near to a local coffee shop I decided to try to compost all their organics in my back yard and find out just how much space is required, and whether odors of a larger compost pile would be an issue.
Thus far, here are the results-- all the organics from our house, yard and the coffee shop were composted down using two compost piles 3'x3', which with the addition of all my yard clippings (and I have two large laurel hedges) topped out at 6' high just last month. Odor has never been a problem.
The coffee shop generates more than a concrete pail a week of coffee grounds, vegetable peels and egg shells.
Faced with the sheer volume of material I was certain that the project would end quickly with the compost piles quickly overwhelmed. However, to my surprise the compost piles were not overwhelmed. What seems to occur is that new material builds up for a period of time, then composting action reduces the recent additions rapidly in batches.
The next step will be to weigh all the material going into the composting piles that would otherwise have gone to the landfill to get an estimate of fuel savings.
A estimate right now would be that these two compost piles have diverted roughly 600 liters or equivalently roughly 600 kg from the dumpsters over roughly half a year leaving roughly 300 liters of compost (which includes a lot of yard clippings).
Based on this project, if organics are separated out from the waste stream and locally composted, and then _still_ trucked away composting can potentially reduce the volume and weight of material moved by roughly half while providing a useful product. The space required to compost an equivalent waste stream is similar to the space required for existing dumpsters.
A composting dumpster that paged the company when it needed emptying could also potentially help reduce fuel costs.