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Creative Composters Earn Prizes Across Manhattan

By DNAinfo Staff on March 21, 2011 8:58pm  | Updated on March 22, 2011 6:11am

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — More than 20 compost enthusiasts with creative takes on the old-time tradition have been awarded cash prizes to expand their efforts.

The winners of the Manhattan community composting contest include an after-school program that plans to build a solar-powered, compost-fueled "tea brewer" and a homeless residence in Times Square that uses compost to fertilize its rooftop garden.

The 23 winners will each receive grants of up to $750 to purchase equipment and material for their efforts.

"Neighborhood composting is key to our environmental and physical health in New York, and this new program will go a long way in transforming everyday food and yard waste into organic nutrients that will make our gardens grow and produce more food for New Yorkers," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, whose office organized the contest in conjunction with the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board and the Citizens Committee for New York City.

Common Ground plans to use their new composter to fertilize their garden.
Common Ground plans to use their new composter to fertilize their garden.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

At Common Ground's Times Square residence at West 43rd Street and Eight Avenue, the $400 prize will be used to replace a small composting drum on the building’s 15th floor with a large 90-gallon tumbler, Tenant Services Assistant Jon Sheffield said.

The results of the composting will be used to fertilize the rooftop garden, where a 17-member garden club grows herbs, peppers, tomatoes, grapes, blueberries, flowers and evergreens.

"All of the gardeners, by doing this, find that they have a little more peace in their lives," Sheffield said.

Tenants will also be given smaller Tupperware containers to encourage them to save their waste.

Other winners took a less traditional route.

The non-profit Comprehensive Development, which provides academic and social support services for students at the Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School in the East Village, was awarded $750 to fund their plan to build a solar-powered compost-fueled tea brewer.

The group, which has been teaching students to build solar panels for several years, plans to affix the panels to a drum to power the production of a "compost tea" liquid for Stuyvesant Square Park next door, Director of Special Projects Jonathan Pereira said.

The 20-person team of students plans to build the device on a cart that can be rolled around to the sunny parts of the park.

Other prize recipients include YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, which will begin composting the organic waste from 200 seniors' meals, Chinatown’s Asian Americans for Equality, La Guardia Corner Gardens in Greenwich Village and Project Harmony in Central Harlem.