Don’t Miss: NYC Food Waste Fair

Last year, New York City began requiring businesses of a certain size to recycle their food scraps, either by hauling it themselves or hiring a private carter. The law is part of the city’s effort to deal with the 650,000 tons of food waste produced by businesses annually, and eventually send zero waste to landfills by 2030.

A change on this scale is not easy to implement, and in order to assist businesses on their food waste journey, the Foundation for New York’s Strongest will host the NYC Food Waste Fair, an expo-style event with workshops, digital content and live demonstrations, on June 27, 2017.

The organizers hope to equip New York City business owners and managers with the knowledge, tools and connections they need to build a food waste prevention plan from scratch, or take existing programs to the next level.

What: NYC Food Waste Fair

When: Tuesday, July 25, 2017 // 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Where: Brooklyn Expo Center

Price: $50

More info: NYC Food Waste Fair website

The exhibit hall will showcase dozens of vendors offering food waste prevention, recovery and recycling services. And workshops will provide information from city government officials on how to comply with laws and regulations, as well as tips from experts on how to achieve tangible, cost-effective results.

5 Reasons I Love Composting in NYC Right Now

I know this sounds crazy, but moving to an apartment with curbside organics pickup has changed my life.

In my last apartment, I saved up my food waste throughout the week, storing it in the freezer to reduce smells, and then hauled it to the local greenmarket on Saturdays.

Sounds easy enough, but over time it drove me crazy. My refrigerator was old and small, and one or two bags of compost took up almost all of my freezer space. If I missed a weekend drop-off, things were suddenly out of control and, critically, I had no room in my freezer for actual food ice cream.

It was also just gross — I tried my best to keep things tidy and sealed, but there were leaks and drips, and at least once I had a fruit-fly massacre in my freezer. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds.

But now that I have curbside pick-up, I have reclaimed my freezer (yay, ice cream) and I find myself composting even more because there are no space limitations: into the bin goes paper, bread, dairy, even meat and bones.

The Department of Sanitation hopes to make curbside composting or neighborhood drop-off sites for food scrap/yard waste available to all of the city by the end of 2018. Photo credit: Scott Lynch/Gothamist.

My love for the brown bin goes beyond the size of my ice cream stash, though. Read on for five big reasons why I can’t stop composting.

5 Reasons I Love Composting in NYC Right Now

  1. It’s really easy—and getting even easier. Organics collection in NYC just keeps on growing—more than a million residents now have access to the program, and city officials estimate that all residents will have access by 2018. Game changer! Literally all you have to do is collect your food waste and dump it in the bin. Move it to the curb on trash day, and whoosh, your compost disappears, along with your garbage and your recycling. Thank you, DSNY!
  2. I never take out my trash. Well, almost. The DSNY estimates the single largest portion of our trash is organic material—meaning it could be composted. If you’re an avid reduce-reuse-recycler (that’s me waving my hand frantically), then after sorting properly, there’s almost nothing left to throw away. My trash can takes forever to get full, and I estimate that I’ve saved roughly $5 million on trash bags already.
  3. No stinky smells. This is huge, especially in the summer. Because my kitchen trash can isn’t full of decomposing food, my household garbage basically never smells. It’s awesome. I won’t lie, though, the brown bin outside can get pretty stinky. Luckily, biodegradable compost bags or bin liners are sanctioned by DSNY and help cut down on the ick-factor quite a bit.
  4.  Pest-free living. Some folks are hesitant to try composting because they fear the bins will attract pests. I’m here to tell you that’s a myth! In fact, the opposite is true: putting food waste on the curb in plastic trash bags is essentially inviting rats, roaches and other critters to have a midnight feast at your expense. Locking all those tasty food scraps inside the city-provide brown bins, however? That actually does keep pests at bay…unless your neighborhood rats have super-human strength and opposable thumbs, in which case we’ve got bigger problems.
  5. A zero-waste future. NYC’s organics collection program is about more than just composting—it’s part of a larger, city-wide effort to go completely waste-free by 2030. Is it possible? Who knows, but composting our food waste is an easy way to get a little closer towards that goal. Plus, in the not-to-distant future, you could help power the city with your used coffee grounds and old pasta salad…how cool is that?

Do you participate in curbside compost pickup? Share your composting tips in the comments!

My Favorite Countertop Compost Bin

One of the best parts about composting is that it requires no special equipment to get started. Anything can be a bin — an old yogurt container, a large tupperware, even a plastic bag in the freezer. As long as you have a place to take your compost regularly, you can get started right now.

That being said, sometimes having the right equipment can make things easier. I’m not a huge proponent of buying more stuff (or kitchen clutter or single-use gadgets or plastic, to be honest) but I recently upgraded my countertop compost bin and I’m not mad about it.

A Better Bin

For many years, I used a classic ceramic jar to collect my scraps (you know the one). When the jar got full, I’d empty the slop into a plastic bag and store it in the freezer. It was fine, but there were occasionally issues — especially when dealing with particularly ripe or *juicy* food waste. Plus I always forgot to replace the charcoal filter.

Now that I have curbside organics pickup, I’ve changed my system a bit. Our building has asked that all residents use biodegradable bags in order to keep things tidy—a compromise I’m happy to make if it keeps people composting—and I decided to get a bin specifically made for these bags.

Not me or my kitchen counter…but I do use this compost bin!

Enter the Full Circle compost collector. This bin is specifically designed to work with biodegradable bags and even though it has a few little flaws, I really, really love this thing.

Here’s how it works: the bag (I prefer these 3 gallon Biobags) clips in around the top with a stainless steel bar and essentially just hangs down inside the grey shell — this enables air to circulate around the compost. The air flow is key: not only does it evaporate any excess moisture, it also keeps the bag from breaking down too fast and magically eliminates almost all odors. It sounds weird but I find that it actually works. Also? Zero fruit fly infestations.

Once a week, I take the whole thing apart and pop it in the dishwasher.

My only complaint is that the lid, latch, and the bar that holds the bag in place all feel a little flimsy–like, if I get a tad overzealous in my composting, something might snap off. That being said, I’ve been using this container for eight months now and it’s still working just fine, so…maybe I’m just paranoid!

If I have any complaints I’ll be sure to update this post, but for now, I’m smitten with my new bin and find it a completely reasonable investment.

Now, let’s hear from you: how do you store your compost?

 

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NYC Big Businesses Now Required to Compost Food Waste

New York City’s slow march towards zero waste has reached yet another milestone: as of July 19, certain large businesses are required by law to separate and recycle organic waste. The law applies to about 350 establishments, including stadiums, hotels, food manufacturers, and wholesalers.

Businesses that must comply are those who meet the following criteria:

  • All food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms
  • All food service vendors in arenas and stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 people
  • Food manufacturers with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet
  • Food wholesalers with a floor area of at least 20,000 square feet

These businesses are given the option to arrange for collection by a private carter, transport organic waste themselves, or process the material on site.

If handling the waste themselves, businesses can use a machine called an ORCA, which can “digest” more than a ton of food waste per day. Using continuous motion, a proprietary “natural Microorganism solution” and “recycled plastic Bio Chips,” the ORCA turns food waste into “environmentally safe water” that can be disposed of into the municipal sewage system.

See an ORCA in action here.

Part of a Larger Picture

New York City’s organics collection plays a key role in Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious OneNYC plan, which sets forth a goal of “Zero Waste” by 2030.

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DSNY organic collection bins. Photo credit: BioHitech

Organic waste (food scraps, yard waste, and soiled paper not suitable for recycling) comprises nearly one-third of all waste NYC residents discard at the curb—approximately 1.1 million tons per year. In landfills, this organic material decomposes, releasing methane gas, a greenhouse gas six times more potent than carbon dioxide.

If composted, however, this material can be converted into a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer that can replenish our city’s soil. It can also be processed through anaerobic digestion, releasing methane gas that can be captured and used as an alternative to natural gas.

Since the launch of a pilot program in 2013, curbside organics collection has expanded include approximately 50,000 households and 700,000 residents across the city. By the end of 2016, DSNY plans to serve more than a million New Yorkers.

The goal is to make curbside or drop-off programs available to all residents by the end of 2018.

In April 2016, DSNY reported collecting more than 55 tons of organic material across the five boroughs—a 50% increase over the amount collected in April 2015.

 

Is Zero Waste Possible? Challenge To NYC Businesses Yields Encouraging Results

The de Blasio administration has pledged that by 2030, none of the city’s trash will find its way to a landfill or incinerator.

It’s a daunting task — New York City’s homes, businesses and public institutions generate roughly 20,000 tons of waste daily. The city’s Department of Sanitation has struggled for years to achieve a 20% recycling rate for residential trash; our private sector is doing somewhat better but reliable data is hard to find.

As incredible as the Mayor’s “zero waste” pledge sounds, his sustainability team has been chipping away at the goal — through expanding the use of residential composting, finding ways to turn organic waste into energy, increasing recycling options for electronic waste, etc.

The latest effort, the City’s Zero Waste Challenge, ended last week. Thirty-one private businesses attempted to see how much they could recycle or otherwise re-use their waste between February and June 2016.

The results are intriguing. Two companies were able to divert almost 100 percent of their trash from the waste stream. Half of the companies were able to divert at least 75 percent of their waste; and the other half removed at least fifty percent.

Why Composting Matters

How were these diversion rates achieved? Much of it involved composting organic material.

According to the Mayor’s Office, the participants in the challenge collectively diverted 36,910 tons of trash that would otherwise have been sent to landfills or incinerators. Two-thirds (24,500 tons) of that waste was composted.

Another 322 tons — all food — was donated.

The greatest overall waste diversion rate (across all participants) was achieved by produce distributors D’Arrigo Brothers of New York (95%) and the Durst Organization’s property at 201 East 42nd Street (95%).

Durst also achieved a 90% diversion rate at 205 East 42nd Street.

As part of their effort, D’Arrigo Brothers donated 172 tons of food to local charities and hunger relief organizations.

Getting organic material — food, yard waste, etc. — out of the waste stream has become paramount for the de Blasio administration. An estimated one-third of the city’s trash is actually organic material.

The Mayor’s Office said in a statement that the “best new program inspired by the Zero Waste Challenge” was the Starrett-Lehigh Building’s new organics collection program, which is free to all tenants and administered by RXR Realty.

Participants in the Zero Waste Challenge

Check out the greatest overall waste diversion rate achieved by type of business:

Arenas: Citi Field – 57%

Commercial tenants and building owners: Durst Organization, 201 E. 42nd Street – 95%

Food wholesalers, grocers and caterers: D’Arrigo Bros. of New York – 95%

Hotels: The Peninsula New York (66%) & Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island (66%)

Office tenants: Viacom – 87%

Restaurants/Caterers: Dig Inn Seasonal Market – 88%

TV production: Madam Secretary – 87%

Companies who achieved a 75% or more waste diversion rate:

Anheuser-Busch
Cleaver Co.
Dig Inn Seasonal Market, 509 Manida St
Durst Organization, 1 Bryant Park
Durst Organization, 114 W 47th Street
Durst Organization, 733 3rd Avenue
Etsy
Madam Secretary
Natural Resource Defense Council
Top Banana
Viacom
Sweetgreen, Columbia University

Companies who achieved a 50% or more waste diversion rate:

Disney ABC Television Group
Citi Field
COOKFOX Architects
Durst Organization, 1133 Avenue of Americas
Durst Organization, 4 Times Square
Durst Organization, 655 3rd Avenue
Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island
Le Bernardin
Momofuku Milk Bar
Great Performances
Peninsula New York
The Pierre New York
USEPA, Region 2 Office
Whole Foods Market, Upper East Side
Whole Foods Market, Chelsea