There is no exact answer to this question. Composting is becoming more popular as Americans become educated of its process and benefits. Some cities, like San Francisco, have begun large composting pick up services while most Americans who participate in the composting process just do it in their own home. Innovative personal compost systems are also available, making the process much easier and less smelly!
In principle, composting is quite easy. All you are required to do is separate your household scraps from those that are not recyclable and will not degrade. So, I think most Americans do know how to compost, but most of them do not do it. It would be great if we could get more cities to write laws like San Francisco so all Americans can participate in composting no matter if they have the room to do it themselves.
Interesting question. I guess I would say that in theory, that many, if not most, Americans understand the basic concept of composting: you put organic materials in a pile and over time it breaks down (or at least I would like to think this is true). However, like GreanBean mentioned, few actually practice it. So, while composting is relatively easy, there is a certain amount of management that is necessary and understanding of how to create optimal conditions so composting occurs rapidly that really only comes with hands-on experience. So, as with many things, I think there is divide between a theoretical understanding of how composting works and the actual practical experience and understanding you gain when you actually engage with it on a regular basis.
How to compost used to be much more common knowledge for Americans when more of us were living in rural environments, where compost piles were common to every farm and homestead. As our culture has become more urbanized, most of us no longer have direct experience with organic processes such as composting. But composting is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with ever more people adding backyard bins or even indoor worm composting bins as part of their urban or suburban environment.
I think it’s widely been a generational gap. Older generations practiced composting commonly, and as we started to become more consumerist and city-dwelling, we stepped away from our roots. We’re now coming full-circle again and returning to it, but along the way we lost an education for it as it started to die out of our common system. Especially noticeable in apartment complexes – how many residents participate in composting? When urban living offers little space, creative efforts have to take place. Afterall, practice is doing and doing is knowing.
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