April 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT2

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A Mobile Demonstration Platform for Yard Waste Management Educational Programs

A mobile cost-effective demonstration platform for teaching principles involved in effective yard waste management is described. The platform, which consists of a custom-built trailer, has produced a 45% reduction in labor associated with composting presentations and has yielded a net savings to the program of $3,977.80 over 84 demonstrations.

Marion Freeman
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Internet address: hami@agvax2.ag.ohio-state.edu

Joseph F. Boggs
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Internet address: jboggs@agvax2.ag.ohio-state.edu

Ohio State University Extension
Hamilton County
Cincinnati, Ohio

Practical, mobile demonstrations have long been used by Extension educators as an effective teaching tool. However, the unwieldy nature of functioning compost bins may seriously limit the development of mobile demonstration programs designed to address yard waste management issues.

Although the dimensions and weights of bins filled with composting organic matter vary, most are too large and/or too heavy to be easily moved about. Consequently, effective and realistic mobile demonstrations require that bins and contents be disassembled and reassembled in order to facilitate transport. Time and labor devoted to mobility can be a significant, even limiting, factor in such programs.

In 1993, the Hamilton County (Ohio) Solid Waste Management District agreed to provide funding to Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County, to support on-site composting demonstrations. The cooperative program was developed as a "local needs" response to Ohio House Bill 592 which halted dumping of yard waste into landfills.

The program has had a positive impact on Extension; however, the endeavor has also presented some serious challenges. The most significant demand was the need to address efficiency since Agent time devoted to the composting program seriously limited time available for other educational initiatives.

In 1993, after several composting demonstrations had been accomplished, the Solid Waste Management District purchased, at a cost of $1,100.00, a custom built "drop-side" trailer to be devoted to the composting program. Specifications for the trailer were developed by Hamilton County Extension and are as follows: two wheeled; 3000 lb. axil; 5 ft. x 10 ft. wooden deck with removable slatted wooden sides and ends; overall length of 16.5 ft.

Carried on the trailer is an "active" compost bin containing 1 cubic yard of material and weighing approximately 800 lbs. Additional training equipment transported on the trailer includes: "fresh" yardwaste; a leaf shredder; screens; samples of finished compost; tools for turning and managing compost bins (forks, rakes, etc.). The drop-sides allow the trailer to be converted into a flat platform making the bin and other objects accessible to clientele.

The trailer significantly increased efficiency. Six community composting workshops were conducted prior to purchasing the trailer and the process of disassembling, transporting and reassembling the composting bin and accompanying materials (the "set-up" time) required an average of 8.58 hrs per workshop. The mobile platform was evaluated over 21 workshops and found to reduce set-up time by 45% or 3.9 hrs per workshop.

The mobile platform also solved several practical teaching problems. For example, disassembling the compost bin disturbed the composting process causing temperatures to drop. Temperature recovery was sometimes insufficient for illustration of the relatively high microbial-induced temperatures necessary for effective composting. Temperatures were better maintained in the undisturbed transportable compost bin.

Finally, the purchase and use of the mobile platform has also proven to be cost/effective to the overall program. Thus far, the trailer has been used a total of 84 times over a seventeen month period (8-1-93 to 12-1-94). Based on an Agent cost per hour rate of $15.50 and a reduction in labor of 3.9 hrs per workshop, the mobile platform has saved the program $5,077.80. Subtracting the trailer purchase price leaves a net savings of $3,977.80.