By Eleanor Fausold
In Kirksville, Missouri, a group of college students and volunteers are collecting food scraps and making it easy for area residents to reduce their food waste, nourish their gardens, and even fight climate change. The group, The Rot Riders, travels by bicycle through the neighborhoods of Kirksville, picks up food scraps from residents’ homes, and delivers them to the Truman University Farm, where they are turned into compost and made available for community members to use as natural fertilizer.
The founders of The Rot Riders were originally inspired by a Northampton, Massachusetts group called Pedal People, a worker-owned cooperative that delivers farm shares and picks up trash, recycling and compost from people’s homes, all by bicycle. The Rot Riders concept was developed as part of a student-led grassroots environmentalism course at Truman State University, and the group has been making weekly rounds since the spring of 2010.
The group is composed of five core riders and a few volunteers. On Sunday afternoons, the riders gather, split up into pairs, divide the route, and set off on bicycles, trailers in tow, to collect food scraps in Kirksville. The cyclists stop and collect buckets of food waste from the lawns and porches of more than 40 houses and apartments in the Kirksville area, and the number of donors continues to grow.
When the food scraps arrive at Truman University, they are mixed with other ingredients such as campus food waste, leaves, straw, sawdust, and manure. It takes about three months for the waste to break down into compost, but once ready, it is made available to all local gardeners.
The Rot Riders concept is a system that can serve as a model for other small communities that do not yet have access to a municipal composting service but are looking for ways to reduce their waste and help the environment. When rotting food scraps end up in landfills, they release methane, a greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to climate change. But when the scraps are used to make compost, they get reused and provide community members with a nutrient-rich fertilizer that helps gardens flourish.
Most of The Rot Riders are Truman State students, but the group is looking to expand. Bikers, organic waste collectors, and composters are all welcome to join in the effort. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you know about other community projects that are helping to reduce food waste? Comment below!
Eleanor Fausold is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.
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