City Receives $90,000 USDA Grant to Pilot Community Composting Projects

PITTSBURGH, PA (October 7. 2021) The City of Pittsburgh has received a $90,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction pilot. The grant will fund a two-year pilot project to develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost and food waste reduction plans, starting with City facilities and events.  

The City’s pilot will focus on gathering research about composting in the region and implementing three composting solutions to see which are viable with city operations to later scale up - public composting at City events, a mechanical composter and traditional compost methods at City facilities.

The first year of the pilot will focus on conducting exploratory research about food waste systems and composting in the greater Pittsburgh area to understand what programs, education, businesses and resources exist to manage food waste commercially and on the community level. The City will use this information to design pilot projects that complement and support the growth of food waste systems already existing in the area.  

The second year of the pilot will focus on testing new composting opportunities at City facilities and events. As part of this, the City will seek a local, licensed composting business through a competitive application process to manage an organic composting booth at City-sponsored farmers’ markets, where visitors can bring their compost and vendors will receive support to transition products to “compost compatible” to host zero-waste markets.  

The City will also pilot two internal composting food operations at a recreation center and a senior center, both of which host food programs, in the hopes that the projects will be able to expanded to accept community compost.  The Philips Recreation Center in Carrick will employ a traditional composting method. Traditional composting requires layering two types of organic materials (“browns” like dried yard debris, leaves, shredded cardboard; and “greens” like fruit food scraps, vegetables, grass clippings), which will break down over time into a soil-like substance used for planting. The composting pilot will also be used for education programming with youth at the center.  

The Homewood Healthy Active Living (Senior) Center will pilot mechanical composting, where organic and compostable materials are put in a vessel, like a drum or silo, and spun or turned regularly to assist with the breakdown of materials to also become a soil-like substance used for planting.  

Though a large-scale citywide composting program is not currently viable for the City, this pilot will be the first step in designing composting opportunities that can be expanded to the community as part of the Climate Action Plan. Composting activities will increase access to compost for agricultural producers, improve soil quality and encourage innovative food systems waste management plans that reduce and divert food waste from landfills.  

The project is a collaboration between several city departments, led by the Department of City Planning’s Sustainability and Resilience Division, Department of Parks and Recreation and Office of Special Events, as well as outside agencies.  


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Molly Onufer
Communications Director
Mayor's Office