Armed with a shovel and some empty recycling containers, I headed out to Staten Island a few weeks ago to reap the fruit of the Department of Sanitation’s fall leaf collection program at the Fresh Kills Compost Give Back. For the past several months some of the city’s hardest workers — worms and microbes — have been toiling diligently, chewing and churning, working to turn the leaves we all bagged and set on the curb last November into garden gold.
It was pretty amazing to see the mountains of compost and woodchips (christmas trees only months ago), and all of the people so eagerly shoveling away. It’s so rare to come face-to-face with our city’s dirt and waste, and even more rare to come away from this encounter feeling positive and inspired. Motivated by the mounds of nutrient-rich garden goodness, I bought a ‘Garden Gourmet’ home composter — normally $70, the Dept. of Sanitation sells these bins to city residents for $20. Separating my food scraps from my trash and recycling has been increasing my awareness of everything I throw away.
Did you know that New Yorkers throw away 64,000 tons of garbage per week — 7 billion pounds of garbage per year — costing the city $1 billion dollars each year. How much could we save if food scraps were composted? In Seattle, recycling food scraps is about to become mandatory — compost is processed by the City and then sold by the bag at area garden centers, an article on how Seattle is kicking NYC’s butt in all things recycling is here.
I also very highly recommend Gotham Gazette’s Garbage Game, a very fun way to learn about the what/where/how of NYC trash. You can also visit the New York City Compost Project website for a wealth of information on compost science and how to compost in NYC.