According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, producing and transporting food from farms to our tables uses 10 percent of the energy, 50 percent of the land, and 80 percent of the freshwater in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food is discarded. The New York City Department of Sanitation says that more than one third of the 10,500 tons of garbage it collects each day is food scraps and yard waste. This equates to more than 1.1 million tons of food scraps NYC residents throw away each year – most of which is transported hundreds of miles away to landfills through a system that is extremely expensive and permanently discards potential assets.
The NYC Compost Project hosted by Big Reuse provides food scrap drop-off sites that empower New Yorkers to make a difference in their communities through composting. With a total of 14 drop-off locations throughout western Queens, north Brooklyn, and Roosevelt Island, we aim to harness food waste as a community resource by making it into compost to use in local green spaces such as street tree beds, community gardens, and parks. With a little extra effort, potential kitchen waste that would otherwise be hauled away to distant landfills is turned into a rich soil amendment a few minutes away in Long Island City.
Through generous funding from the Department of Sanitation, we’ve processed more than 1.3 million pounds of organic material collected from our food scrap drop-offs and partner organizations in 2017. Furthermore, we’ve worked with hundreds of volunteers to steward 144 street trees and plant more than 1,400 bulbs, while distributing more than 160 cubic yards of finished compost back to the community.
Reitsma, third from left, and the NYC Compost Project hosted by Big Reuse team.
This success would not be possible without the contributions of Roosevelt Island residents. Two years ago, we were approached by Island residents and compost enthusiasts Christina Delfico, Julia Ferguson, and Anthony Longo to open a food scrap drop-off on the Island. These volunteers were instrumental in all aspects of starting this program, and their impact was felt immediately as residents quickly began participating en masse. Each Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Roosevelt Islanders bring their food scraps to our station near Grandpa Al Lewis Playground to be composted at our processing site under the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City. As of the end of September, participants on Roosevelt Island had diverted more than 50,000 pounds from the landfill (and AVAC). Much of this material has been returned to the Island in the form of finished compost used by the Roosevelt Island Garden Club.
To celebrate, we will be smashing pumpkins on November 4 at the lower lawn of Manhattan Park from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This is our second annual Pumpkin Smash on Roosevelt Island and is a fun opportunity for residents to recycle their pumpkins and other seasonal organic material. Even if you don’t have a pumpkin to smash, stop by to see all the action and learn more about our programming.
For more information about The NYC Compost Project hosted by Big Reuse and how to participate, please visit our website at bigreuse.org/compost. Hope to see you there!
Project Coordinator, NYC Compost Project hosted by Big Reuse