Services & Maintenance: Composting Programs

The City of Philadelphia stepped up its composting efforts during its city marathon in November 2012. (Photo: SCA.)
The City of Philadelphia stepped up its composting efforts during its city marathon in November 2012. (Photo: SCA.)

By Mike Kapalko
From the January/February 2014 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Businesses seek balance when improving a triple bottom line goal of managing profits while showing their social responsibility towards their employees, customers, and the environment. While 64% of companies have a plan for sustainability initiatives, according to a recent industry report, incorporating sustainability into every aspect of a business may not be top of mind. Running a green facility—whether it’s an office, educational facility, hospital, or industrial building—can be the key differentiator when it comes to having a competitive edge and shouldn’t be overlooked.

An up and coming trend to improve overall sustainability initiatives is the implementation of a composting component to recycling programs. Buried waste is the top source of human caused methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. Thus, composting is an ideal solution to addressing this challenge as the process diverts these materials from landfills and reduces the amount of methane gas that ends up in the earth’s atmosphere.

Regardless of where a facility is located, implementing a composting program is possible on a variety of levels. For instance, municipalities across the country are stepping up their sustainability practices and are looking for partners and other resources to bring new initiatives to fruition. Collaborating with other entities often spark new ideas and opportunities.

For example, the City of Philadelphia recently partnered with SCA, a manufacturer of personal care and tissue products, leveraging the city’s influence to help spread the word and raise awareness around the importance of recycling and composting. A citywide recycling, waste, and composting program was launched that aligned with Philadelphia’s mission to become the “greenest city” in the United States by 2015.

Five hundred waste bin stations were donated to Philadelphia for use at major outdoor events with a goal of diverting an estimated 2.5 million pounds of waste from landfills per year. The program was introduced at the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon.

Once compostable waste is collected, it is taken to facility where it undergoes a thorough cleaning and shredding process and produces fresh compost two months later ready to be used in places like local parks and facilities. The initial effort at the 2012 marathon generated significant results—exceeding the initial goal of diverting 75% of the waste collected. Nearly 50,000 pounds of waste were diverted from landfill, with 42,965 pounds recycled and 6,500 pounds composted. The effort was done again at the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon.


Increasing numbers of organizations are doing more to facilitate composting by adopting sustainable policies in their facilities and educating their employees, occupants, and communities. A sustainable partnership is not limited to that between a facility and its municipality. Effective collaborations can be forged with another public entity, a school, or a non-profit. Essentially, facility managers should work with organizations with sustainable goals and vision that align with theirs. The time and effort invested in such a program reap benefits beyond the organization, and help create a safer and healthier environment. Knowing that such a commitment is long-term and that ultimately benefits employees and the environment, it is a worthwhile investment in technology and effort.

Kapalko is sustainability marketing manager for SCA’s North American Away from Home Professional Hygiene business.