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Traverse City’s Household Kitchen Scrap Composting Rate

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Thanks to everyone (N = 648!…how awesome is that?!?) for taking my survey and helping me with my 4th grade science fair project. I got an A+!

Here’s the information that I had up on my Project Board:

PROBLEM QUESTION
What is Traverse City’s household kitchen scrap composting rate?

HYPOTHESIS
Due to my experience as a Compost Boy, I predict that Traverse City’s household kitchen scrap composting rate will be 30%.

RESEARCH
30-40% of household waste in the U.S. is compostable. Food waste makes up 21% of what goes into landfills for a total of 36,000,000 tons every year. The total recovery of food waste is only 1.6% but there are cities that are very compost friendly like Madison, WI. Their household composting rate is 35%.

EXPERIMENT
I designed a scientific online survey on surveymonkey.com. It had 22 questions about composting, gardening and demographics. I researched other municipal composting surveys including one from Madison, WI. I shared my survey via email, social media, my Carter’s Compost website, and through Grand Traverse County’s Recycle Smart newsletter. I sent a test survey to several organizations including GT County’s Resource Recovery department who gave me feedback on my survey questions. The survey was open for one month. Even though I only measured Traverse City’s rate, I allowed all Grand Traverse residents to take part so I could establish data for future studies.

RESULTS
N = 305 (TC residents only)
“YES, I’ve composted my kitchen scraps in the past year” 72%
“NO, I haven’t composted my kitchen scraps in the past year” 28%
5.55% Margin of Error at 95% Confidence Interval

HOW TRAVERSE CITY RESIDENTS COMPOST
Backyard Pile 53%
Plastic Commercially Made Bin 28%
Pick-up Service 25%
Drop-off at Community Pile/Share with Neighbor 18%
Worm Bin/Vermicomposting 9%

WHY TRAVERSE CITY RESIDENTS COMPOST (“CHOOSE YOUR TOP 3”)
“Reduce my waste” 84%
“Nourish my plants naturally” 65%
“Contribute to my ecosystem at home by being responsible for the entire cycle of my food” 61%
“Save landfill space” 60%
“Cut down on greenhouse gas emissions (compostable items in landfills emit methane)” 32%
“Teach your kids that their waste is a resource” 29%
“Reduce groundwater pollution (toxins leaching from landfills into the environment)” 22%
“Save money on fertilizer for your garden” 19%

WHY TRAVERSE CITY RESIDENTS DO NOT COMPOST
“I don’t know how” 43%
“I don’t have enough space” 39%
“I’m afraid of attracting pests/critters” 30%
“I’m too busy. I don’t have enough time” 28%
“It’s too icky and it smells” 17%

WHAT % OF ORGANIC WASTE IS RECOVERED BY TRAVERSE CITY COMPOSTERS
Veggie Scrap 81%
Meat and Dairy scraps 17%

COMPLETING THE CYCLE
64% of TC composters have a garden
87% of these gardeners have a garden less than 500 sq feet
77% buy compost
94% make their own compost

WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO COMPOST IN TRAVERSE CITY
40 to 59 years old
Lives in a single family home
Has an advanced college degree
Earns 50,000 to 75,000 per year
Prepares more than 14 meals at home/week

REFLECTION
Although the data set is large with 305 respondents from Traverse City allowing me to have a low margin of error and high confidence interval, my sample was not random. The survey was shared online with my Carter’s Compost members, friends, supporters and sponsors . I was unable to get outside of my circle of friends. Apparently, with a 72% rate, all of my Traverse City friends are composters. This is a serious weakness of my survey because the data is skewed. Maybe if I randomly chose names from the phone book or stood outside the library, that would have provided more accurate results.

CONCLUSION
I guessed that we would have a higher than average household composting rate because Traverse City is a very environmentally friendly city and there is a lot of demand for my kitchen scrap pick-up service. I predicted 30% but my survey found the rate to be 72%. Due to that fact my sample was not random, I think 72% is too high. Based on these results, I also now think that 30% is probably too low. Traverse City is very compost friendly!

Bar Graphs for all questions can be found here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-PWDNC88/

Full Results from all Grand Traverse Respondents here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-62PH288/

What do you think TC’s actually household kitchen scrap composting rate is?

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