In just the first week of October, New Yorkers turned over 31,000 pounds of food scraps into compost at Greenmarkets located throughout the city. The GrowNYC composting program, which places food waste drop-off stations at farmers’ markets, has collected over one million pounds of food scraps in the five boroughs in the last two years, saving the waste from landfills and turning the food scraps into a nutrient-rich product that helps nourish the city’s green spaces.
While the numbers are impressive, GrowNYC notes that the amount of food scraps currently being recycled represents only a small fraction of organic waste. The green advocacy group estimates 30 percent of the New York City’s residential and institutional trash could ultimately be recycled into compost, helping to save in trash processing costs and reducing carbon emissions caused when trucks must haul food scraps to landfills.
To increase the amount of organic food waste ultimately spared from being trash, a number of convenient food-scrap recycling stations sponsored by GrowNYC, a composting workshop, and a brand new Sanitation Department pilot pick-up program are all making it easier than ever for more New Yorkers to turn food scraps into New York City soil.
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How can I participate?
Participation in a composting program is easy. Simply save your non-greasy food scraps in a container and then drop them off when you shop at one of 35 food scrap recycling stations located in Greenmarkets throughout the city.
Residents living in pilot areas for the Department of Sanitation’s Organic Collection program can also contact GrowNYC to find out how their building can participate in food scrap pick-up. Currently, small buildings of one to nine units and larger residential structures are being recruited for the pilot program, which was launched in May 2013 and will ultimately allow New Yorkers to set out organics just like other recyclables.
What can I compost?
When it comes to composting, not all food scraps are created equal. Most importantly, meat, fish and meat and fish by-products cannot be turned into soil. The same goes for oily and greasy foods, which can ruin an otherwise healthy composting pile, as well as coconuts, which contain high oil levels.
Egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, vegetable and fruit scraps, cut flowers and nut shells all make good candidates for food scrap recycling. To make sure an item can be used before you save it, check out the complete list of recyclable scraps.
How do I store the scraps?
When it comes to composting, many New Yorkers fear that saving food scraps will stink up their cramped kitchens and attract pests. To help eliminate odors and keep bugs at bay, use a container that seals (an old yogurt container works well) and place the container in the refrigerator or freezer. You can also use shredded newspaper in the bottom of the container to cut back on odors.
Can I compost at home?
If you are one of the lucky New Yorkers that have kitchen space or your own outdoor garden, you may want to consider composting on your own with an indoor worm bin or outdoor composting station. The NYC Composting Project, sponsored by the Department of Sanitation, can help get you started with a series of workshops that can help you meet other green-minded neighbors and learn how to turn your food into rich, healthy soil.
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Tamar Auber is a freelance writer whose work can be found on Examiner.com.