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  • By Lisa Cassidy, ecoImagine

Closing the Loop: How to win at composting while avoiding painful fines at the same time

Did you know that when it comes to winning and losing, the fear of loss is far greater than the joy of winning? In study after study, “loss aversion” has proven to effect decision-making in ways that you may not expect. For example, a person is less likely to sell something they own for $10, than they are to buy the same item for $10. People are also more likely to become politically involved when their rights are threatened, than if there’s a vote on a law that would give them more rights. Why? According to psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, “Evolution has made pain a more urgent matter than pleasure, since avoiding pain is the thing that can keep you alive.

”Knowing our propensity to take action to avoid pain, can be a good thing. This brings me to the purpose of this article. Composting is not typically something a business owner, a manager or even a resident feels obligated to do just because it is a good idea. Nor does it feel like winning when it is done well. Yet, composting is an opportunity to win and avoid pain all in one – and that is something worth considering.

Recycle Through Composting To Avoid Fines

As a business owner or manager, you might not be feeling the impact now, but due to the varying levels of landfill capacity in many states and aggressive zero waste goals, more and more cities and states are implementing mandatory organic waste recycling laws around organic materials or banning food waste to landfills altogether. Why? In the United States alone, 63 million tons of food are thrown into landfills when they could have been composted and turned into usable product. Fines associated with compostable material in the trash are on the rise. Given that apartment buildings and condominiums generate a quarter of the landfilled waste from discarded food scraps alone, recycling food waste through composting provides a winning solution, while avoiding the pain of fines associated with improper food waste disposal.

Residents Will Adapt

Now I realize composting may not be inherently pleasing to people when they first start out, but neither is running, yet every year millions of new runners and joggers hit the streets, the treadmill and the track to make it happen. Just like running, composting can feel like a mixture of good intentions and frustration rolled into one in the beginning. Then one day it just works, becomes part of the routine and, most importantly, it feels good to do it.

Unlike running, composting requires minimal physical effort. Composting simply asks residents to put leftover food waste such as coffee grounds, egg shells or apple cores in a separate compost container in the kitchen. From there, the compost is put out for pick-up (in private residences) or placed in a chute or designated compost bin in apartment buildings or condominiums. That’s it.

Closing the Loop

Once the compost is picked up, it is taken to a facility where it is combined with bulking agents — wood chips, foliage or dirt. The organic materials are then broken down. The resulting material can be put back into your building’s landscape or it can be used to create healthy soil for farming or gardening in your local community. Composting may not feel as rewarding as closing a deal or winning a game in your favorite sport, but it does help avoid unnecessary pain. Since we know from Tversky and Kahneman that humans are all about avoiding pain, avoiding fines is as good a reason as any to get started. But rest assure, it is also a really good idea.

For a comprehensive guide to multi-family composting, visit

Lisa Cassidy is Senior Strategist and Founder of ecoImagine.

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