Composting

Our good friends posted about composting in NYC on their blog and it got me inspired!

Peter and I are currently attending our church’s Midtown East home group, and in addition to all the thought-provoking and deep conversations we have while digging into the Word, we are also a passionate group of people, and several of us share a common interest in protecting the environment. Naturally, composting is part of that!

What is composting? Well, first and foremost, composting is nature’s way of recycling! Nature naturally takes decomposed organic materials and turns them into a rich soil known as compost, which allows the cycle of life to continue. What it means for city dwellers is either having your own at-home composting operation or, more likely, dropping off your food scraps at a collection site like Greenmarket (which will then take it to one of several NYC composting sites to be broken down). The resulting matter can then be used for local urban farming and gardening projects.

Finished compost (looks like ordinary soil – but is much more nutritious)!

According to a 2013 Huffington Post article, food scraps accounted for 33% of all residential trash in NYC (and were the #1 material sent to landfills at large). The article estimated a potential annual savings of $100 million if we were to return our food to the soil instead of to landfills.

What’s so bad about food scraps going to landfills? Doesn’t it just break down once it’s there? No. Oxygen is needed to facilitate the decaying process, and because food scraps are mixed in with all the other inorganic junk/garbage at landfills, the oxygen can’t reach the compostable waste. Thus, their fate is the same as the rest of the garbage – landfill waste, which will be ultimately burned and/or buried. Landfill is responsible for ~20% of the nation’s emissions of greenhouse gases (as anaerobic decomposition produces landfill gas, which is comprised of ~50/50% of methane/carbon dioxide – significant contributors of global warming b/c of their heat-trapping properties), and the incineration process releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and leaves toxic ash waste.

Understanding that food scraps are the #1 material sent to landfills, this means that a significant amount of this yucky, horribly unfriendly landfill is stuff we could prevent by composting. Not only will we reduce the amount of landfill in general, protecting our earth, but the resulting compost is good for the land and soil — for the plants and other things we grow. Plus, we spend less on commercially-produced compost and lawn/garden products, whose factories depend on fossil fuels to quickly make commercial amounts of compost.

What to compost? For those dropping off at sites in NYC, Greenmarket’s guide states that 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.

(Note: There are definitely more materials than listed above that can be composted, especially in your at-home operations, but these larger community facilities request that people leave out certain items that make it more difficult for these sites to maintain/handle the scraps.)

But doesn’t it smell? Peter and I collect our food scraps in gallon ziploc bags and leave them in our freezer = no smell, no mold and our food-free trash can doesn’t smell anymore! When your ziploc is full, simply transfer the frozen scraps to a paper bag and you can drop the whole bag, contents and all into the compost bin at a drop-off site. If you prefer to take the scraps still in the ziploc, just note you’ll have to empty the ziploc at the site, since ziploc isn’t compostable (then take it home and you can reuse the ziploc for your next round of scraps!).

Where to compost in NYC? Here’s a list of all the drop-off sites in NYC! You could also buy a composting bin to DIY at home, but that’s next-level stuff I won’t cover here :p

For now, we will try to minimize our contribution of food scraps to landfills by dropping off our food scraps at Greenmarket. We hope more New Yorkers will do the same! And all of earth’s inhabitants in their own accessible/feasible ways. 🙂

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