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1. New agricultural purposes in the city

The revival of urban agriculture: an opportunity for the composting stream

Marjorie Tendero and Carola Guyot Phung
p. 40-51

Abstract

Urban composting is currently booming, especially thanks to the new outlets that urban agriculture offers for organic materials. Faced with the challenges of the sustainable city of tomorrow, this practice, whether individual or collective, engages citizens and offers a decentralized response with positive impacts for the environment and for neighborhood social relations. Its success involves making material available in a common space, a communication system and support from residents’ initiatives. Technical, ecological, agricultural, economic and social aspects must be considered to ensure its success, while scientific knowledge is essential to inform, overcome certain obstacles and ensure the quality of this urban form of production.

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Editor's notes

These two researchers received finance for their doctoral dissertations from the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME).

Full text

Introduction

  • 1 ADEME, Fabienne Muller, Guillaume Bastide, Isabelle Deportes, Olga Kergaravat, and Cloé Mahé, “Comm (...)
  • 2 Joël Sotamenou, “Les facteurs d’adoption du compost en agriculture urbaine et périurbaine au Camero (...)

1Although not required to do so, 30% of French households sort their biowaste at the source1. Previously, these tended to be ad hoc local initiatives, but there is now a real buzz around urban composting. This is happening in connection with urban agriculture programs, as composted organic waste is used to supply urban and peri-urban agriculture2.

  • 3 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Déchets - chiffres clés,” [Repor (...)

2As of 2015, the average person in France was producing 437 kilograms of household waste a year.3 Of this waste, half is made up of recyclable materials and a third of organic waste. Composting therefore allows reduced consumption of resources by encouraging their recycling and local reuse.

Composting: the process and recovery streams

A technique for recovering and processing organic waste

3Composting is the fermentation of organic waste in the presence of oxygen (under aerobic conditions) and humidity, in controlled conditions. This produces a stable fertilizing material rich in humic compounds: compost, which is used as an organic soil improver to enhance the structure and fertility of soil. But the renewed interest in composting should not overshadow the complexity of this technique. The composting process comprises four phases (mesophilic, thermophilic, cooling and curing), throughout which the composition of organic products and of living organisms changes.

4The first three phases make up the decomposition phase (see Figure 1). During the mesophilic phase, large quantities of carbon dioxide are released and a great deal of oxygen is consumed, causing an increase in temperature. This is particularly significant in the mesophilic and thermophilic phases, when the energy contained in the organic matter is transformed into heat, and the temperature can reach between 50 and 60 °C (and even 70 to 80 °C in heaps measuring several dozen cubic meters). During the cooling phase, the temperature gradually drops and fungi colonize the material. At the same time, microbial activity lessens. Below 30 °C, microorganisms remain active, and larger organisms (macroorganisms), such as compost worms, mites, springtails, woodlice, beetles and centipedes start to appear. This is the curing phase. The decomposition of organic material continues and humus forms.

Figure 1. The four phases of the composting process

Figure 1. The four phases of the composting process

Organic waste

Organic waste, also known as fermentable waste, biowaste and biodegradable waste, refers to green garden waste such as lawn clippings, dead leaves, hedge clippings, or wilted indoor flowers and plants, and animal waste, such as droppings, dung and manure. This waste can be broken down by microorganisms and organisms such as worms, mites and insects.
Organic waste also includes degradable kitchen waste, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, tea bags, cheese rind, eggshells, vegetable food leftovers (bread, rice, potatoes), plus cellulose household waste such as absorbent paper (paper tissues, paper towels, coffee filters) and newspaper, wood ash, and untreated sawdust and wood shavings.

French biowaste regulations in a nutshell:
Biowaste or organic waste is defined in article R 541-8 of the environmental code as: “all non-hazardous biodegradable garden or park waste, all non-hazardous food or kitchen waste, including that from households, restaurants, caterers and retailers, and all similar waste from foodstuff production or processing facilities”.

Some key figures:
Households produce 18 million metric tons of biowaste per year, including:
• 5.1 million metric tons of mainly green waste processed in homes (mulch, compost, etc.)
• 3.8 million metric tons of green waste sent to disposal facilities
• 1.6 million metric tons of biowaste collected separately (mostly green waste – food waste amounts to 5-10% by weight).
Remaining biowaste amounts to around 40% of household waste, or more than 8 million metric tons, and is mostly food waste. The amount of kitchen and green waste processed in homes is equivalent to the amount collected by public services.

Figure 2. Organic waste and main sources of waste

Figure 2. Organic waste and main sources of waste

The different composting streams

5Composting is an organic waste recovery and processing stream that works at every scale, from the domestic to the neighborhood or town level, right up to industrial plant scale.

  • 4 ADEME, Le compostage - fiche technique, [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement (...)

6This makes composting suitable for a range of socioeconomic and geographical situations. There is a distinction to be made between domestic composting and industrial composting. The latter takes place in centralized, large-capacity industrial facilities producing from 2,000 to 100,000 metric tons per year, or even more. These facilities enabled the processing of more than 7.2 million metric tons of organic waste in France in 20104.

7Domestic composting, on the other hand, covers individual and collective composting. Individual composting is carried out by individuals or private households, at the bottom of the garden, or by apartment dwellers, using a wormery. Use of the latter is showing a marked increase. Collective or semi-collective composting is carried out at the foot of an apartment building, or in a communal area or garden. These have seen strong growth in recent years.

The revival of an ancient urban practice

A history of composting

  • 5 Sabine Barles, L’invention des déchets urbains : France 1790-1970, Champ Vallon, Milieux, June 15, (...)
  • 6 Nicolas Poirier and Laure Nuninger, “Techniques d’amendement agraire et témoins matériels. Pour une (...)
  • 7 Paula Nahmias and Yvon Le Caro, “Pour une définition de l’agriculture urbaine : réciprocité fonctio (...)
  • 8 Pascale Scheromm, Coline Perrin, and Christophe Soulard, “Cultiver en ville... Cultiver la ville?  (...)
  • 9 Marion Ernwein and Joëlle Salomon-Cavin, “Au-delà de l’agrarisation de la ville : l’agriculture peu (...)

8Composting is mentioned in the “Book of Nabatean Agriculture” from the third millennium BCE; the book is a synopsis of the agricultural knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia5. Archeological digs have also found household waste in manure from the Middle Ages, but it is not known whether this was accidental or an informed practice6. Although the medieval town was marked by the separation of agricultural areas located outside the walls from the intra-mural spaces7, urban agricultural practices already existed8. For example, places for medicinal plants or vegetable gardens have been observed behind some dwellings and in abbey gardens. The practices of composting and farming inside towns seem to have developed concurrently until the 20th century, through a phenomenon of “agrarianization of towns.” This phenomenon takes very different forms, from urban farms to family gardens; makes use of various surfaces, such as planted roofs and walls or gaps between buildings; and employs disparate techniques, such as organic growing and hydroponics9.

  • 10 Grace Gershuny and Deborah L. Martin (ed.) The Rodale book of composting: simple methods to improve (...)

9The 20th century marks a separation. The urbanization of agriculture happened relatively quietly, but urban expansion accentuated competition for use of space. Areas that were previously agricultural were now located in urban or peri-urban settings. Beyond the usage conflicts provoked by urban expansion, composting developed significantly in the agricultural sector, and research work on composting techniques emerged in its wake. For example, in 1936, the botanist and agronomist George Washington Carver (1864-1943) published a study entitled “How to Build Up and Maintain the Virgin Fertility of Our Soil,“ which recommended using compost to maintain the fertility of soil exposed to increasing environmental pressures. A few years later, in 1943, the publication of “An agricultural testament” by the English agronomist and botanist Albert Howard (1873-1947) rekindled interest in composting methods10.

Renewed popularity

  • 11 Agnès Demolles, Christian Nanchen, Pascal Retière, and Roger Proix, “Guide méthodologique du compos (...)
  • 12 ADEME, Guide méthodologique du compostage partagé (ou semi collectif), [Report], Angers, France, AD (...)
  • 13 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Le compostage et le paillage,” [ (...)

10Urban composting is currently attracting strong interest through the expansion of urban agriculture, which is raising urban residents’ awareness of food production. Additionally, the sustainable city concept has highlighted the value of making compost from urban waste. The timeline in Figure 3 shows the main steps implemented since the 2000s to encourage composting on every scale, both individual and collective. In 2006, France’s National Plan to support home composting rounded off its national waste prevention plan of 2004. The publication of numerous research studies and methodological guides followed. A notable example is the in-house composting guide11 aimed at all public or private organizations with a shared canteen (schools, tourist attractions and restaurants, for instance), the guide to shared or semi-collective composting12 aimed at users of communal or co-owned gardens, and more recently, the practical guide to composting and mulching aimed at households13.

Figure 3. Major dates relating to composting since the early 2000s

Figure 3. Major dates relating to composting since the early 2000s
  • 14 ADEME, Le compostage - fiche technique, [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement (...)
  • 15 ADEME, Guide méthodologique du compostage partagé (ou semi collectif), op. cit.
  • 16 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Déchets - chiffres clés,” op. ci (...)

11The National Plan for Waste Prevention 2014-202014, along with the next Plan (in consultation since April 2019), highlight the increasing importance of composting in waste management. To achieve its 2025 waste reduction targets, the waste plan envisages increasing the number of neighborhood composting facilities, composting hubs and biogas plants, so that “everyone can access a neighborhood waste management solution.” Currently, according to ADEME, there are more than 600 composting hubs, and around 60 local government authorities have a doorstep biowaste collection system in place, serving 2.2 million residents15. Thanks to these facilities, the volume of composted waste is increasing – it reached 7.7 million metric tons in 2014, which represents a 103% increase from the year 200016. This volume will probably continue to increase, as the 2018 roadmap for the circular economy included a reduced value-added tax on purchases of neighborhood composting equipment and compostable bags.

Focus on the expansion of composting in selected cities17

In the urban community of Toulouse Métropole, composting has grown significantly. Between 2011 and 2012, the percentage of households with a garden composter increased by 53% in Aigrefeuille, by around 40% in Toulouse, Beaupuy and Mons, and by just under 20% in Drémil-Lafage, Quint-Fonsegrives and Pin-Balma.
In the urban community of Grand Chalon, the number of home composters distributed to households multiplied 14-fold between 2006 and 2013.
In Nantes, no fewer than 38 shared composting facilities were established in 2018, and 15 more in 2019. Currently, there are more than 200 shared composting facilities, in schools, homes and even family gardens.

Composting in a communal garden: the example of the La Crapaudine vegetable garden in Nantes

Environmentally friendly practices adopted in communal gardens include collecting rainwater for watering, using compost as natural fertilizer and banning the use of chemical treatments. These practices were all implemented long ago in the La Crapaudine vegetable garden. Created in 1998, this family garden in south Nantes comprises 91 plots ranging from 35 to 150 square meters, with a total area of 16,580 square meters. The garden is managed by the Jardins de la Crapaudine association, which supports gardeners and organizes activities with other local associations to strengthen social links and make gardeners aware of chemical-free products and methods. Since January 1, 2017 the Labbé law prohibits the use of chemicals in green spaces, forests, roadways and paths accessible or open to the public.
Through the Compostri non-profit organization, composting has been used in this park since 2011 to reduce the use of pesticides. A 1,400-square-meter educational space is also available to the city of Nantes’s green space and environmental services as a master class and showcase for urban composting. This area also helps raise public awareness of composting and there is a training area dedicated to individual and shared composting using heaps and wormeries. Activities to raise park users’ awareness are also held during national neighborhood composting weeks, which take place every year in March and April. The composting space is not restricted to subscribers and members of the family garden – any local resident can dispose of their biowaste in the composting shed provided. In this way, the shared garden is helping to spread eco-friendly values and behaviors.
More than 200 shared composting facilities are currently operating in the Nantes Métropole area: more than 80 in homes, the same again at the foot of apartment buildings, and around 15 in family gardens.

Awareness poster issued for the 2019 French national waste composting awareness week

Awareness poster issued for the 2019 French national waste composting awareness week

A practice with multiple benefits for the city

  • 18 Camille Blaudin de Thé, Amandine Erktan, and Charles Vergobbi, La filière agricole au cœur des vill (...)
  • 19 M. Charland, S. Cantin, M-A. St-Pierre, and L. Cote, Recherche sur les avantages à utiliser le comp (...)

12Compost helps sustain urban agriculture18 and is the source of numerous benefits19 in the multifunctional context of the city.

  • 20 Heba Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim and Mohamed Abdel aziz Balah, “Study the Use of Compost Tea in Weed Suppr (...)
  • 21 Thuy Thu Doan, Thierry Henry-des-Tureaux, Cornelia Rumpel, Jean-Louis Janeau, and Pascal Jouquet, “ (...)
  • 22 M. Mladenov, “Chemical composition of different types of compost,” Journal of Chemical Technology a (...)
  • 23 C. Aubry and C-T. Soulard, “Cultiver les milieux habités : quelle agronomie en zone urbaine ?” Agro (...)
  • 24 Miguel A. Sánchez-Monedero, María L. Cayuela, María Sánchez-García, Bart Vandecasteele, Tommy D’Hos (...)

13In physical terms, the use of compost improves the soil’s structure, reducing the risk of soil erosion by wind and water. Compost also increases the soil’s water retention capacity, making it more drought-resistant20. Compost improves the soil’s plasticity, density and structure21. Chemically speaking, the use of compost increases the soil’s carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content, as well as trace elements and organic matter22. These substances are necessary for plant growth, and therefore for soil fertility. In biological terms, compost contains significant biomass and supports an extremely rich microbial population23. Applying compost also increases microfauna in the soil. All these elements contribute to soil fertility24.

Figure 4. The benefits of urban composting combined with urban agriculture

Figure 4. The benefits of urban composting combined with urban agriculture
  • 25 B. P. Grard, N. Bel, N. Marchal, F. Madre, J. F. Castell, P. Cambier, C. Chenu, S. Houot, N Manouch (...)
  • 26 Rosanne Wielemaker, Oene Oenema, Grietje Zeeman, and Jan Weijma, “Fertile cities: Nutrient manageme (...)
  • 27 Giulia Giacchè, “De la ville qui mange à la ville qui produit: l’exemple des Horteloes Urbanos de S (...)

14From an agronomic viewpoint, therefore, the use of compost improves the physical, chemical and biological quality of the soil. In the city, it can enrich urban soil, planted roofs and terraces for growing vegetables25. It therefore contributes to improving crop soil fertility in the urban environment26. The practice of composting in the context of urban agriculture also alters its relationship to the city. Essentially, as the city eats, it also produces27. Just like when they generate electricity from renewable sources, citizens who produce compost become suppliers to the city, providing it with fertilizer for its green spaces.

15Economically, urban agriculture represents a potential market for compost produced in an urban setting. Also, from both the economic and environmental viewpoint, composting has the advantage of its short distribution chain, as it occurs where waste is produced. This also eliminates the difficulties and costs associated with transportation and industrial recovery, which involves incineration or landfill, especially given that these sites are relatively costly and difficult to establish, due to the nuisance they pose to local residents.

  • 28 Mohammad H. Golabi, M. J. Denney, and Clancy Iyekar, “Value of Composted Organic Wastes as an Alter (...)
  • 29 Wan Namkoong, Eui-Young Hwang, Joon-Seok Park, and Jung-Young Choi, “Bioremediation of diesel-conta (...)
  • 30 Noura Bakr, David C. Weindorf, Yuanda Zhu, Allen E. Arceneaux, and H.M. Selim, “Evaluation of compo (...)

16Composting also brings environmental benefits by reducing reliance on pesticides and chemical fertilizers28, especially in the agricultural sector where their use is still widespread. On the other hand, using compost on contaminated soil can considerably reduce the pollutant content, including lead, copper and oil-based products in enriched soil.29 Using compost alongside roads offers another environmental bonus by absorbing rainwater and reducing soil washout.30

  • 31 Raymond Asomani-Boateng, “Closing the Loop: Community-Based Organic Solid Waste Recycling, Urban Ga (...)
  • 32 Yuji Hara, Takashi Furutani, Akinobu Murakami, Armando M. Palijon, and Makoto Yokohari, “Current or (...)

17Also, through urban agriculture, the use of compost offers a route to social acceptability for growing crops offground or on city rooftops. In return, urban agriculture initiatives also help to raise awareness and educate the public about composting practices, which enhances its social acceptability still further.31 Urban agriculture raises public awareness of food production and organic waste management and recycling.32 The benefits of composting extend beyond the boundaries of urban agriculture and also contribute to creating real circularity in the use of compost.

Composter at the foot of an apartment building

Composter at the foot of an apartment building

©City of Nantes

Composter in an urban garden

Composter in an urban garden

©City of Nantes

Obstacles to composting

18Despite the numerous positive effects of composting, there are significant obstacles limiting its use. Among these are environmental and health risks. Administrative and regulatory barriers and people’s perceptions of organic waste also constitute obstacles that require effective public communication with compost users to further promote its use.

Potential environmental and health risks

19Carbon dioxide is the main gas produced during composting. Several other gases in smaller quantities can also have a non-negligible effect on health or the environment: nitrous oxide and methane are greenhouse gases; ammonia contributes to environmental acidification and eutrophication; various other volatile sulfurous and organic compounds can potentially create odors and health issues.

  • 33 Jeroen Douwes, Inge Wouters, Helianthe Dubbeld, Lukas van Zwieten, Peter Steerenberg, Gert Doekes, (...)
  • 34 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Impact sanitaire et environnemen (...)

20Additionally, composting occurs in the presence of microorganisms that can cause disease. The risk of disease is potentially greater for people working in a composting hub33. However, in recent years, the amount of kitchen and green waste processed in homes has been equivalent to the amount collected by public services.34 Home composting therefore presents risks that need to be mentioned.

  • 35 Gwenaëlle Lashermes, Enrique Barriuso, and Sabine Houot, “Dissipation pathways of organic pollutant (...)
  • 36 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Impact sanitaire et environnemen (...)
  • 37 Isabelle Déportes, Jean-Louis Benoit-Guyod, and Denis Zmirou, “Hazard to man and the environment po (...)

21In addition to microorganisms as a potential source of certain diseases, mostly respiratory, organic pollutants can also be found in compost because they are present in the organic waste that goes into the compost.35 There is therefore a disease risk when stirring, turning or collecting compost, or when adding dry material, for example.36 Diseases may be transmitted by inhalation or ingestion of organic dust particles, or through the skin.37 These organic dust particles can contain microorganisms of fecal or animal origin, especially animal by-products from category 3 such as egg shells and certain meat residues. Although these are usually destroyed during the composting process due to the rise in temperature, this temperature increase is not systematic, especially in the case of home composting and small shared composters where the volume of composted waste is low, as this does not permit the hygienization of the compost caused by the temperature increase.

  • 38 Kari Reijula and Tapani Tuomi, “Mycotoxins of Aspergilli: exposure and health effects,” Frontiers i (...)

22In terms of other potential ailments, the main risk to humans is allergic or inflammatory in nature. Bacteria and fungi that grow during composting may also release toxins and allergens. Toxins of bacterial or fungal origin can cause respiratory discomfort or irritation (in the form of coughing and sneezing) and/or ocular discomfort, or non-allergic inflammation, such as irritation, chronic bronchitis or asthma flare-ups, for example. The multiplication of microorganisms such as aspergillus fumigatus, aspergillus flavus or stachybotrys atra can also cause necrotizing pneumonia, pulmonary disease, or hypersensitivity pneumopathy, also known as allergic alveolitis38. These diseases can also be caused by (involuntary) ingestion of soil or compost dust particles. This particularly affects unsupervised young children, who may subsequently develop gastroenteritis or acute diarrhea. Figure 5 summarizes the main potential environmental and health impacts of home composting.

Figure 5. Main environmental and health impacts of urban composting

Figure 5. Main environmental and health impacts of urban composting
  • 39 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Impact sanitaire et environnemen (...)

23However, the risk of infection is minimal. Chronic respiratory exposure to atmospheric emissions from compost are not likely to entail unacceptable risks.39 Effectively, this type of reaction generally occurs in cases of repeated and prolonged exposure to the organic materials contained in the compost. Additionally, immunosuppressed individuals are most at risk: infants, young children, older people, or people with chronic illnesses such as asthma. Furthermore, to prevent these risks, wearing a mask and gloves is recommended when handling compost. It is also important to allow the compost to mature long enough that pathogens do not survive. It is also preferable to spread the compost around trees and ornamental plants rather than on the vegetable garden. If the compost is used on the vegetable garden, vegetables from the garden must be thoroughly washed.

Administrative aspects and public perceptions

  • 40 Véronique Philippot, “Approche ethnologique de la pratique du compostage collectif citadin. Les ver (...)
  • 41 Nicolas D’Andrea and Pascal Tozzi, “Jardins collectifs et écoquartiers bordelais : De l’espace cult (...)
  • 42 Aurélie Dumain and Laurence Rocher, “Des pratiques citoyennes en régime industriel : les courts-cir (...)
  • 43 Véronique Philippot and Sandrine Glatron, “Le compostage collectif urbain à l’épreuve de ses interd (...)
  • 44 Aurélie Dumain and Laurence Rocher, “Des pratiques citoyennes en régime industriel,” op. cit.
  • 45 Véronique Philippot and Sandrine Glatron, “Le compostage collectif urbain à l’épreuve de ses interd (...)

24On a social level, compost use enables residents to increase their awareness and sense of responsibility with regard to their own waste production40. Observations of composting practice in different urban areas such as Bordeaux41, Lyon42 and Strasbourg43 show that although compost users in an urban setting share the same aim in terms of sustainable development (reduction and recycling of waste), this clashes with regulations that are considered overly rigid. In addition, cooperation between the various volunteers and the urban community (including local government authority stakeholders) comes up against a difference in cultures linked to the need for each category of stakeholder to understand the challenges and expectations relating to recycling.44 Faced with a regulatory framework they consider too rigid, users adapt and at times liberate themselves from local composting regulations. A study of the local compost regulations in the Strasbourg inter-municipal authority (Eurométropole de Strasbourg) showed that the list of allowed waste differs from one site to another45. This may also be observed in the advice given to students in different teaching establishments.

  • 46 Pascal Tozzi, “Ville durable et marqueurs d’un ‘néo-hygiénisme’ ? Analyse des discours de projets d (...)

25The different types of waste not allowed on certain urban composting sites may be explained by different motives, whether for pragmatic reasons of fast waste sorting, avoiding odors or esthetic nuisance, or aiming at a rather extreme form of “neo-hygienism”46. Initial attempts in Lyon to encourage home wormery use revealed these kinds of difficulties, despite personalized support being offered. These experiments were nevertheless able to show the advantages of a composting solution at the foot of apartment buildings, with collection guaranteed by the municipality.

  • 47 Aurélie Dumain and Laurence Rocher, “Des pratiques citoyennes en régime industriel,” op. cit.

26Another major difficulty is the number and duration of administrative procedures to be followed when installing a composter. These are seen as prohibitive. In the city of Lyon, for example, it sometimes takes two years for a composting project to see the light of day47.

Dictionary of composting

Anaerobic digestion: another natural treatment method for organic waste. It produces gas that can be converted into energy (biogas) from the biological decomposition of organic matter in anaerobic (zero-oxygen) conditions. Anaerobic digestion mostly involves organic waste that is rich in water: wastewater treatment sludge, grease and matter from pumping out septic tanks and drains, and certain agricultural, agri-food industry and household waste.
Compost (or ripe compost): fertilizer obtained from composting.
Dry material: wood shavings or leaves used in waste composting to obtain an aerated compost.
Humus: the upper layer of soil formed, maintained and enriched by decaying organic matter.
Macroorganisms: living creatures that can be seen with the naked eye.
Microorganisms: microscopic living creatures such as bacteria, viruses and single-celled fungi (yeasts).
Wormery: plastic tanks containing layers of worms, which break down vegetable matter and peelings. It is the only viable composting solution in an apartment.

Conclusion

  • 48 Evelyne Boissonneault, Sol, terre, compost : quels enjeux pour l’agriculture urbaine ? Québec, Univ (...)
  • 49 Carola Guyot Phung, “Implications of the circular economy and digital transition on skills and gree (...)

27Advocates of the city as a service are currently questioning the content and methods of delivering public services, including through composting. Having previously been washed away in the tide of urban waste, more than a decade ago, biowaste rediscovered its historic route to recovery: composting. Composting offers an important resource for urban agriculture, which is constantly expanding. Public decision-makers and citizens have converged on a decentralized solution that is positive for the environment and enables a return to closer neighborhood social relations based on shared values, while also rationalizing costs for the municipality. The practice of urban composting has already passed beyond the confines of the family garden: education and awareness of composting are becoming more widespread, notably through urban agriculture and increasing public awareness of food production.48 In this context, it is essential to mobilize scientific expertise, and research programs are currently under way to expedite the composting of new forms of biowaste, especially bioplastics, which are already arriving in composters with best practice yet to be established.49 We now need to consider future conditions for efficiency and for safeguarding health and the environment.

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Notes

1 ADEME, Fabienne Muller, Guillaume Bastide, Isabelle Deportes, Olga Kergaravat, and Cloé Mahé, “Comment réussir la mise en œuvre du tri à la source des biodéchets? Recommandations pour les collectivités,” [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), Expertises, 2018.

2 Joël Sotamenou, “Les facteurs d’adoption du compost en agriculture urbaine et périurbaine au Cameroun,” Terrains & travaux 1, no. 0, 2012: 173187.

3 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Déchets - chiffres clés,” [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), Faits & Chiffres, 2018.

4 ADEME, Le compostage - fiche technique, [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), 2015.

5 Sabine Barles, L’invention des déchets urbains : France 1790-1970, Champ Vallon, Milieux, June 15, 2005. Mohammed El Faiz, “Un traité des engrais d’après le ‘Livre de l’Agriculture Nabatéenne’,” Journal d’agriculture traditionnelle et de botanique appliquée 39, no. 1 (1997): 525.

6 Nicolas Poirier and Laure Nuninger, “Techniques d’amendement agraire et témoins matériels. Pour une approche archéologique des espaces agraires anciens,” Histoire & Sociétés rurales 38, no. 2 (2012): 1150.

7 Paula Nahmias and Yvon Le Caro, “Pour une définition de l’agriculture urbaine : réciprocité fonctionnelle et diversité des formes spatiales,” Environnement urbain/Urban environment, 6 (2012): 116.

8 Pascale Scheromm, Coline Perrin, and Christophe Soulard, “Cultiver en ville... Cultiver la ville?  L’agriculture urbaine à Montpellier,” Espaces et sociétés 158, no. 3, (2014): 49.

9 Marion Ernwein and Joëlle Salomon-Cavin, “Au-delà de l’agrarisation de la ville : l’agriculture peut-elle être un outil d’aménagement urbain?  Discussion à partir de l’exemple genevois,” Géocarrefour, 89, December 23, 2014, no. 12: 3140.

10 Grace Gershuny and Deborah L. Martin (ed.) The Rodale book of composting: simple methods to improve your soil, recycle waste, grow healthier plants, and create an earth-friendly garden, Second revised edition-1992 (New York: Rodale Books, Rodale Classics, 2018).

11 Agnès Demolles, Christian Nanchen, Pascal Retière, and Roger Proix, “Guide méthodologique du compostage autonome en établissement,” [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), 2012.

12 ADEME, Guide méthodologique du compostage partagé (ou semi collectif), [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), 2012.

13 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Le compostage et le paillage,” [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), Clés pour agir (2019).

14 ADEME, Le compostage - fiche technique, [Report], Angers, France, ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), 2015.

15 ADEME, Guide méthodologique du compostage partagé (ou semi collectif), op. cit.

16 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Déchets - chiffres clés,” op. cit.

17 Data source: https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/datasets/compostage-domestique/ et http://www.compostri.fr/carte/

18 Camille Blaudin de Thé, Amandine Erktan, and Charles Vergobbi, La filière agricole au cœur des villes en 2030, AgroParisTech, Paris, France, 2009.
Camille Dumat, Tiantian Xiong, and Muhammad Shahid, Agriculture urbaine durable: Opportunité pour la transition écologique, 2016.

19 M. Charland, S. Cantin, M-A. St-Pierre, and L. Cote, Recherche sur les avantages à utiliser le compost, [Report], Québec, Centre de Recherche Industrielle du Quebéc (CRIQ), Dossier CRIQ, 2001.

20 Heba Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim and Mohamed Abdel aziz Balah, “Study the Use of Compost Tea in Weed Suppression,” International Journal of Environmental Research 12, no. 5 (October 2018): 609618.
Suwandi, Armi Junita, Suparman, Abu Umayah, Harman Hamidson, A. Muslim, and Chandra Irsan, “Curative Activity of Watery Fermented Compost Extract as a Bark Treatment against Tapping Panel Dryness,”
The Open Agriculture Journal 12, no. 1, April 30, 2018: 7483.

21 Thuy Thu Doan, Thierry Henry-des-Tureaux, Cornelia Rumpel, Jean-Louis Janeau, and Pascal Jouquet, “Impact of compost, vermicompost and biochar on soil fertility, maize yield and soil erosion in Northern Vietnam: A three year mesocosm experiment,” Science of The Total Environment 514 (May 2015): 147154, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.02.005.

22 M. Mladenov, “Chemical composition of different types of compost,” Journal of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy 53, no. 4 (2018): 712716.

23 C. Aubry and C-T. Soulard, “Cultiver les milieux habités : quelle agronomie en zone urbaine ?” Agronomie, Environnement et Sociétés 2, no. 1 (2011): 89101.

24 Miguel A. Sánchez-Monedero, María L. Cayuela, María Sánchez-García, Bart Vandecasteele, Tommy D’Hose, Guadalupe López, Carolina Martínez-Gaitán, Peter J. Kuikman, Tania Sinicco, and Claudio Mondini, “Agronomic Evaluation of Biochar, Compost and Biochar-Blended Compost across Different Cropping Systems: Perspective from the European Project FERTIPLUS,” , Agronomy 9, no. 5, May 4, 2019: 225
Rubén Forján, Alfonso Rodríguez-Vila, Beatriz Cerqueira, Emma F. Covelo, Purificación Marcet, and Verónica Asensio, “Comparative effect of compost and technosol enhanced with biochar on the fertility of a degraded soil,” Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 190, no. 10 (October 2018).
Thuy Thu Doan et al. “Impact of compost, vermicompost and biochar on soil fertility, maize yield and soil erosion in Northern Vietnam,” op. cit.

25 B. P. Grard, N. Bel, N. Marchal, F. Madre, J. F. Castell, P. Cambier, C. Chenu, S. Houot, N Manouchehri, S. Besancon, J. C. Michel, N. Frascaria-Lacoste, and C. Aubry, “Recycling urban waste as possible use for rooftop vegetable garden,” Future of Food: Journal on Food, Agriculture and Society 3, no. 1 (2015): 2134.
Mert Eksi, D. Bradley Rowe, Rafael Fernández-Cañero, and Bert M. Cregg, “Effect of substrate compost percentage on green roof vegetable production,”
Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 14 no. 2 (2015): 315322.
Baptiste J.-P. Grard, Claire Chenu, Nastaran Manouchehri, Sabine Houot, Nathalie Frascaria-Lacoste, and Christine Aubry, “Rooftop farming on urban waste provides many ecosystem services,”
Agronomy for Sustainable Development 38, no. 1 (February 2018).

26 Rosanne Wielemaker, Oene Oenema, Grietje Zeeman, and Jan Weijma, “Fertile cities: Nutrient management practices in urban agriculture,” Science of The Total Environment 668 (June 2019): 12771288.
Rosanne C. Wielemaker, Jan Weijma, and Grietje Zeeman, “Harvest to harvest: Recovering nutrients with New Sanitation systems for reuse in Urban Agriculture,” Resources, Conservation and Recycling 128 (January 2018): 426437.
O. Cofie, A. A. Bradford, and P. Drechsel, “Recycling of urban organic waste for urban agriculture,” in
Cities farming for the future, Urban agriculture for sustainable cities: 209242.
J. P. Harris et al. “The potential use of waste-stream products for soil amelioration in peri-urban
interface agricultural production systems,” in Waste Composting for Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture: Closing the Rural-Urban Nutrient Cycle in Sub-Saharan Africa, ed. P. Drechsel and D. Kunze (Wallingford, United-Kingdom): 128.

27 Giulia Giacchè, “De la ville qui mange à la ville qui produit: l’exemple des Horteloes Urbanos de Sao Paulo,” [Report], Nantes, France, Laboratoire ESO (Espaces et Sociétés), ESO Travaux et Documents - Dossier Transition sociale et environnementale des systèmes agricoles et agro-alimentaires au Brésil, 2016.

28 Mohammad H. Golabi, M. J. Denney, and Clancy Iyekar, “Value of Composted Organic Wastes as an Alternative to Synthetic Fertilizers for Soil Quality Improvement and Increased Yield,” Compost Science & Utilization 15, no. 4 (September 2007): 267271. 
Teresa Hernández et al. “Use of compost as an alternative to conventional inorganic fertilizers in intensive lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) crops—Effects on soil and plant,”
Soil and Tillage Research 160 (July 2016): 1422.
Rizwan Ahmad, Muhammad Naveed, Muhammad Aslam, Zahir A. Zahir, Muhammad Arshad, and Ghulam Jilani, “Economizing the use of nitrogen fertilizer in wheat production through enriched compost,”
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 23, no. 03 (September 2008): 243249.

29 Wan Namkoong, Eui-Young Hwang, Joon-Seok Park, and Jung-Young Choi, “Bioremediation of diesel-contaminated soil with composting,” Environmental Pollution 119, no. 1 (August 2002): 2331.
AM. Taiwo, A.M. Gbadebo, J.A. Oyedepo, Z.O. Ojekunle, O.M. Alo, A.A. Oyeniran, O.J. Onalaja, D. Ogunjimi, and O.T. Taiwo, “Bioremediation of industrially contaminated soil using compost and plant technology,”
Journal of Hazardous Materials 304 (March 2016): 166172.
Nadège Oustriere, Lilian Marchand, Gabriel Rosette, Wolfgang Friesl-Hanl, and Michel Mench, “Wood-derived-biochar combined with compost or iron grit for in situ stabilization of Cd, Pb, and Zn in a contaminated soil,”
Environmental Science and Pollution Research 24, no. 8 (March 2017): 74687481.

30 Noura Bakr, David C. Weindorf, Yuanda Zhu, Allen E. Arceneaux, and H.M. Selim, “Evaluation of compost/mulch as highway embankment erosion control in Louisiana at the plot-scale,” Journal of Hydrology 468-469 (October 2012): 257267.
Karen Finney, Bahram Gharabaghi, Ed McBean, Ramesh Rudra, and Glenn MacMillan, “Compost Biofilters For Highway Stormwater Runoff Treatment,”
Water Quality Research Journal 45, no. 4 (November 2010): 391402.

31 Raymond Asomani-Boateng, “Closing the Loop: Community-Based Organic Solid Waste Recycling, Urban Gardening, and Land Use Planning in Ghana, West Africa,” Journal of Planning Education and Research 27, no. 2 (December 2007): 132145.

32 Yuji Hara, Takashi Furutani, Akinobu Murakami, Armando M. Palijon, and Makoto Yokohari, “Current organic waste recycling and the potential for local recycling through urban agriculture in Metro Manila,” Waste Management & Research 29, no. 11 (November 2011): 12131221.

33 Jeroen Douwes, Inge Wouters, Helianthe Dubbeld, Lukas van Zwieten, Peter Steerenberg, Gert Doekes, and Dick Heederik, “Upper airway inflammation assessed by nasal lavage in compost workers: A relation with bio-aerosol exposure,” American Journal of Industrial Medicine 37, no. 5 (May 2000): 459468.
Martie Van Tongeren, Ludovic Van Amelsvoort, and Dick Heederik, “Exposure to Organic Dusts, Endotoxins, and Microorganisms in the Municipal Waste Industry,”
International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 3, no. 1 (January 1997): 3036.
O. Schlosser, A. Huyard, K. Cartnick, A. Yañez, V. Catalàn, and Z. Do Quang, “Bioaerosol in composting facilities: occupational health risk assessment,”
Water Environment Research 81, no. 9 (2009): 866877.

34 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Impact sanitaire et environnemental du compostage domestique,” op. cit.

35 Gwenaëlle Lashermes, Enrique Barriuso, and Sabine Houot, “Dissipation pathways of organic pollutants during the composting of organic wastes,” Chemosphere 87, no. 2 (April 2012): 137143.
Gwenaëlle Lashermes, “Évolution des polluants organiques au cours du compostage de déchets organiques : approche expérimentale et modélisation,” Paris, France, AgroParisTech - Institut des Sciences et Industries du Vivant et de l’Environnement, 2010.
Rahel C. Brändli, Thomas D. Bucheli, Thomas Kupper, Reinhard Furrer, Franz X. Stadelmann, and Joseph Tarradellas, “Persistent Organic Pollutants in Source-Separated Compost and Its Feedstock Materials—A Review of Field Studies,” Journal of Environment Quality 34, no. 3 (2005): 735.
Thomas Kupper, Thomas D. Bucheli, Rahel C. Brändli, Didier Ortelli, and Patrick Edder, “Dissipation of pesticides during composting and anaerobic digestion of source-separated organic waste at full-scale plants,”
Bioresource Technology 99, no. 17 (November 2008): 79887994.

36 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Impact sanitaire et environnemental du compostage domestique,” op. cit.
Caroline E. W. Herr, Anja zur Nieden, Nikolaos I. Stilianakis, Uwe Gieler, and Thomas F. Eikmann, “Health effects associated with indoor storage of organic waste,” International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 77, no. 2 (February 2004): 9096.
José L. Domingo and Martí Nadal, “Domestic waste composting facilities: A review of human health risks,”
Environment International 35, no. 2 (February 2009): 382389
Gwenaëlle Lashermes, Enrique Barriuso, and Sabine Houot, “Dissipation pathways of organic pollutants during the composting of organic wastes,” op. cit.
Alessio Boldrin, Jacob K. Andersen, and Thomas H. Christensen, “Environmental assessment of garden waste management in the Municipality of Aarhus, Denmark,”
Waste Management 31, no. 7 (July 2011): 15601569.

37 Isabelle Déportes, Jean-Louis Benoit-Guyod, and Denis Zmirou, “Hazard to man and the environment posed by the use of urban waste compost: a review,” Science of The Total Environment 172, no. 23 (November 1995): 197222.

38 Kari Reijula and Tapani Tuomi, “Mycotoxins of Aspergilli: exposure and health effects,” Frontiers in Bioscience 8 (2003): s232s235.

39 ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie), “Impact sanitaire et environnemental du compostage domestique,” op. cit.

40 Véronique Philippot, “Approche ethnologique de la pratique du compostage collectif citadin. Les vertus éco-citoyennes à l’épreuve de l’enquête,” Paris, France, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and AgroParisTech, 2011.

41 Nicolas D’Andrea and Pascal Tozzi, “Jardins collectifs et écoquartiers bordelais : De l’espace cultivé à un habiter durable?” Norois, no. 231, September 30, 2014: 6174, doi:10.4000/norois.5087.

42 Aurélie Dumain and Laurence Rocher, “Des pratiques citoyennes en régime industriel : les courts-circuits du compost,” Flux 108, no. 2 (2017): 22.

43 Véronique Philippot and Sandrine Glatron, “Le compostage collectif urbain à l’épreuve de ses interdits: Enquête sur des sites strasbourgeois,” VertigO 18, no. 2, September 5, 2018, doi:10.4000/vertigo.20743.

44 Aurélie Dumain and Laurence Rocher, “Des pratiques citoyennes en régime industriel,” op. cit.

45 Véronique Philippot and Sandrine Glatron, “Le compostage collectif urbain à l’épreuve de ses interdits,” op. cit.

46 Pascal Tozzi, “Ville durable et marqueurs d’un ‘néo-hygiénisme’ ? Analyse des discours de projets d’écoquartiers français,” Norois, no. 227, June 30, 2013: 97113.

47 Aurélie Dumain and Laurence Rocher, “Des pratiques citoyennes en régime industriel,” op. cit.

48 Evelyne Boissonneault, Sol, terre, compost : quels enjeux pour l’agriculture urbaine ? Québec, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2017.
Sarah Taylor Lovell, “Multifunctional Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Land Use Planning in the United States,”
Sustainability 2, no. 8, August 4, 2010: 24992522.

49 Carola Guyot Phung, “Implications of the circular economy and digital transition on skills and green jobs in the plastics industry,” Field Actions Science Reports. The journal of field actions, Special Issue 19 (2019): 100107.

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List of illustrations

URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-1.jpg
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Title Figure 1. The four phases of the composting process
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-2.png
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URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-3.jpg
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Title Figure 2. Organic waste and main sources of waste
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-4.png
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Title Figure 3. Major dates relating to composting since the early 2000s
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-5.png
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Title Awareness poster issued for the 2019 French national waste composting awareness week
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-6.jpg
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Title Figure 4. The benefits of urban composting combined with urban agriculture
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-7.png
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Title Composter at the foot of an apartment building
Credits ©City of Nantes
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-8.jpg
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Title Composter in an urban garden
Credits ©City of Nantes
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-9.jpg
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Title Figure 5. Main environmental and health impacts of urban composting
URL http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/docannexe/image/5682/img-10.png
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References

Bibliographical reference

Marjorie Tendero and Carola Guyot Phung, « The revival of urban agriculture: an opportunity for the composting stream », Field Actions Science Reports, Special Issue 20 | 2019, 40-51.

Electronic reference

Marjorie Tendero and Carola Guyot Phung, « The revival of urban agriculture: an opportunity for the composting stream », Field Actions Science Reports [Online], Special Issue 20 | 2019, Online since 24 September 2019, connection on 18 November 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/factsreports/5682

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About the authors

Marjorie Tendero

Marjorie Tendero is an assistant professor in economics at ESSCA. Her research looks at environmental problems and land use issues, such as the redevelopment of polluted brownfield sites and the use of communal gardens.

Carola Guyot Phung

Carola Guyot Phung is a research associate in the I3 CRG laboratory at the École Polytechnique. She studies the impact of programs that support innovation in environmental transition, and the integration of circular economy practices into economic models. She participates in several European digital innovation projects in this area.

By this author

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Copyright

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