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Food Scraps Wanted: City's Expanded Compost Program Launches Friday

By Amy Zimmer | March 3, 2011 1:37pm
Compost bin decomposition composition.
Compost bin decomposition composition.
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By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Reporter

MANHATTAN — To get food scraps out of the city's garbage cans and into compost bins where they can be turned into fertile soil for local farming projects, three greenmarkets have been collecting orange rinds, potato peels, coffee grounds, egg shells and other fruit and veggie remains from New Yorkers' kitchens.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is expected to announce a pilot program at the Union Square Greenmarket on Friday that will expand its compost drop-off spots beyond Union Square and two Queens locations to seven new greenmarkets for a test run through June 25.

Three Manhattan sites made the list: the Inwood Greenmarket, TriBeCa Greenmarket and the West Village's Abingdon Square Greenmarket. The city is partnering with local groups, like the Lower East Side Ecology Center at Union Square, that have already been collecting food waste.

Tossing food scraps into the trash adds up: Food comprises 17 percent of the city's waste stream, which in turn adds to disposal costs and greenhouse gas emissions, notes GrowNYC, the organization overseeing the greenmarkets.

While some cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle have curbside pickup for organic waste — where residents sort yard trimmings, food scraps and compostable paper — New York's Department of Sanitation said such scrap collection would never work here.

New York is just too big. It's 10 times as dense as San Francisco, DSNY's website notes.

People living in apartments have to separate things like food scraps, plant wasts and dirty paper towels and then take them to a central area to dump into a communal bucket, DSNY's website says. The bucket of organic materials is then be collected up to twice a week on at the curbside, according to the site.

"Problems of odor, vermin, mess, and above all contamination with non-organic wastes would be practically guaranteed under such a scenario, even with the best education programs in place," DSNY's website says.

So, how should New Yorkers store their fruit and veggie scraps, egg and nut shells, plants and flower, coffee grounds and tea bags at home before dropping them off at greenmarkets?

GrowNYC recommends using large yogurt containers or other covered plastic containers and then putting the items in the freezer or refrigerator — with a layer of shredded newspaper — to reduce the smells.


Union Square Greenmarket

NE section of Union Square Park

Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat, 8 a.m. -5 p.m.

Abingdon Square Greenmarket

Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

W. 12th Sreet & 8th Avenue

Inwood Greenmarket

Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Isham b/t Seaman & Cooper

Tribeca Greenmarket

Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Greenwich Street at Chambers

For more information on what can be composted and where, visit www.grownyc.org.