Rot Riders Collect Compost on Bikes

By Eleanor Fausold

In Kirksville, Missouri, a group of college students and volunteers are collecting compost 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 compost from residents’ homes, and delivers it to a community compost pile, where it is later available for community members to use as a natural fertilizer.

The Rot Riders collect compost by bicycle. (Image Credit: Rot Riders)

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 compost in Kirksville. The cyclists stop and collect buckets of compost from the lawns and porches of more than 40 houses and apartments in the Kirksville area, and the number of donors continues to grow.

Once the compost is collected, it is taken to the compost pile at Truman State’s University Farm. There, it is mixed with other ingredients such as campus food waste, leaves, straw, sawdust, and manure. It takes about three months for the compost to break down, but once it’s 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

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.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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