Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Asim Zia

Abstract

Organic waste management presents challenges and opportunities alike for community-based economic development. Waste-to-compost transformation can be socially and economically successful by employing ecological design principles, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and values-based supply chains (VCs). An analysis of commercial buyers' preferences for compost will inform approaches to forming effective partnerships of public, private and nonprofit stakeholders to develop a market for local waste resource products. The thesis summarizes the results of a consumer preferences survey of current and prospective bulk compost purchasers and discusses strategies for implementing new organic waste management policies that will strengthen a local market for compost, build social capital and share economic value.

A conjoint analysis of bulk compost preferences in Vermont was conducted to identify the market's preference for quality-based attributes of bulk compost. The data was taken from a survey administered by mail to Vermont business professionals in various fields that use--or could potentially use--compost products in providing goods or services. In addition to price (81 percent of the relative importance buyers place on an attribute), local provenance (8 percent) and suitability for organic production (7.6 percent) were demonstrated as statistically significant determinants of the value buyers placed on compost. Willingness to pay for local provenance and suitability for organic production were measured at 15% and 14% above the baseline product price, respectively. Current and prospective compost producers can effectively market their products and retain a competitive edge in the marketplace by collaborating with other businesses. A viable market for Vermont compost could be achieved through cultivation of niche specialties, stable institutional buyers, more stringent regulation of food waste and nutrient management behavior, and a collaborative effort to construct a product narrative that emphasizes compost's role in a larger social-ecological system of nutrient management and sustainable agriculture.

Language

en

Number of Pages

122 p.