Do you know where your waste goes? In a society where everything is immediate – from fast food, fast fashion and disposable goods, this is a question we should be asking ourselves. For those of you in New York these are the facts… New York generates more than 14 million tons of rubbish a year and it spends over $2 billion on disposing of it. Our New York landfills are full and as a result we transport our waste by land – to other states or by sea – to other countries. How sustainable is this? The short answer is it’s not.
When I used to live in England I was a big advocate for composting and always made sure to do it at home. When I moved to New York I stopped, because I thought it would be a lot harder than it actually is.
In 2015 Mayor De Blasio started his Zero Waste initiative which was meant to reduce landfill waste by 90% by 2030. Despite the trial being successful we have heard little about it since. A big part of this initiative was the compost program which actually started as a small study in Staten Island in 2013. This compost program was expected to go city-wide by the end of 2018. The idea was that all food waste would be separated by home owners into brown bags and then picked up and distributed to people who could turn it into fertilizer or use it for energy. This was going to be rolled out to 24 neighborhoods but the plans seem to have stopped. I can say in my time here I have never seen a brown bin bag but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it yourself…
In New York City 21% of all waste is food waste. Just think about that figure for a moment. That’s almost a quarter of all of the city’s waste. When this type of waste gets added to landfills it not only takes up valuable space but also emits harmful greenhouse gases into the environment. When compost is handled properly it can be hugely beneficial – it can be fed to livestock and turned into fertilizer to enrich farming and feed nutrients back into the soil and earth.
So, what exactly is composting and how do you do it?
Composting is the storage and disposal of old organic matter. This could be anything from food to leaves and manure. It’s very simple to start composting and just because you live in a city it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. To begin with we recommend getting a composting container. This could be anything from a compost bin, old plastic bag or a tupperware box. A tight lid or keeping it in the freezer will help to avoid any unwanted smells that might arise. After that it’s very simple. You just add your food waste. There are a few restrictions such as meat, poultry, fish and dairy but in general everything else is accepted. Then once a week or whenever your container is full, you can take it to one of the many designated compost drop off sites situated within New York city. You can find these spots here. Alternatively, if you live below 57thstreet and are too busy to take your compost to one of these sites, a company called Reclaimed Organics (reclaimedorganics.com) can collect your compost via bike courier and deliver them to local community gardens. If you have any queries while living uptown you can get more information at NYC 311 who will let you know composting pick up schedules as well as drop off locations.
Composting is such a simple way to solve a not so simple problem and if more New Yorkers took the time to do this we could make a real difference. For more information and articles on composting please see links below.