Weekly Challenge: New York City Composting 101
Ah, composting. It's recycling, but odder. So what's the deal with separating our food from the waste that we're already separating from our recycling? Why go through all the effort? If food breaks down on its own, why wouldn't it break down just as naturally in a landfill? And...worms?
Here's the catch. And it's important.
In the United States, food waste is the number one material sent to landfills. Fun fact: we throw out 50% more food today than we did in 1970. For New Yorkers, food waste accounts for one third of the 336 million dollars it costs us to ship our trash to Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Carolina. By choosing to compost, we could save over 100 million dollars a year.
But why can't food break down in the landfill? What's the point? I'm glad you asked. Aly Millar of Food Politic responds:
"Your food gets dumped in landfills, where it’s trapped by tons of garbage, which generate 20 percent of the nations’ emissions of greenhouse gases. Microorganisms break this trash down via anaerobic digestion, emitting methane and carbon dioxide. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 22 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. In a biogas facility, food scraps can generate electricity, but when food sits in landfills, the only work it does is raise the global temperature."
Okay, okay, but will it be easy? And do I have to use...worms?
Yes! So easy! With no worms necessary. Thank you New York City!
NYC residents can drop off food scraps at 42 participating Greenmarkets, Youthmarkets, and Fresh Food Box locations in all five boroughs.
For one week, can I count on you to join me in collecting our food scraps? All you need is an airtight plastic container. For more information, check out the City of New York's description of the City Composting Program below!
What happens to food scraps dropped off at Greenmarket?
Your household food scraps will be transported to one of several NYC compost sites to be transformed into a fertile soil amendment for use on local urban farming and gardening projects.
Can businesses drop off materials to compost?
No. Commercial food scraps are not accepted at these sites. Businesses should contact a hauler who can handle commercially-generated organic waste.
What can I bring to the food scrap collection sites?
Accepted materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, non-greasy food scraps (rice, pasta, bread, cereal etc.), coffee grounds & filters, tea bags, egg and nut shells, pits, cut or dried flowers, houseplants and potting soil. [Please NO meat, chicken, fish, greasy food scraps, fat, oil, dairy, animal waste, litter or bedding, coal or charcoal, coconuts, diseased and/or insect-infested houseplants/soil or biodegradable/compostable plastics.]
How should I store my food scraps?
Food scraps can be collected in large yogurt containers or other covered plastic containers, paper bags, plastic bags, milk cartons or in commercially-available compost pails. To reduce odors at home and at the Greenmarket, store items in the freezer or refrigerator. A layer of shredded newspaper at the bottom of your storage container also helps.
How can I learn more about organics recycling in NYC?
Visit www.nyc.gov/organics to find workshops, guides for indoor and outdoor composting, a listing of community-based drop-off sites and to learn more about DSNY residential Organics Collection Program.
The GrowNYC & DSNY Greenmarket Food Scrap Compost Program is a partnership between the City of New York, the NYC Department of Sanitation, GrowNYC, and community partners.