Recycling Food Waste Is Easy With Drop-Off Composting: NYC's 14th Street Y

community and composting

I hear many of my fellow greenies mentioning how people should recycle, compost, etc., but I’ve never seen any evidence that people respond well to such motivation. Make these activities easy, though, and recycling and composting rates increase.

So I was intrigued when I saw that New York City’s 14th Street Y was piloting a community composting program designed to keep organic wastes out of trash cans and landfills by making it convenient to deal with such “trash” responsibly. Organics are a huge part of the city’s waste stream, so figuring out how to get New Yorkers recycling food waste could save a lot of landfill… and money spent on dumping fees.

So, how does the Y make this work? First, they accept pretty much any form of food waste: “…meat and dairy, bones and cheese, shells and paper.” The Y’s website has a list of everything that can go in its composting bins, and its pretty extensive. Next, residents of the Easy Village, whether members of the Y or not, can drop off their food waste during any open hours. If they’re willing to use compostable containers – whether biodegradable plastic bags they can buy, or their extensive collection of paper take-out containers – they can literally just drop their scraps in the bin and go.

How’s it working? Pretty well: the program collects about a ton of materials a month. Program director Camille Diamond notes that while 180 member families of the Y have signed up for the program, the amount of material received suggests more like 300 households participating.

The program also contains an educational element: “At its Staten Island summer camp children learn what a landfill is, what compost is, and what type of refuse belongs where. They learn that eggshells and apple cores are not garbage but potentially valuable compost.”

Should people compost? Yes. But if we actually want them to do it, rather than just feel guilty about not doing it, we should follow the Y’s lead and make it convenient. Know of other programs making food waste recycling easier? Tell us about them in the comments.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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