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Upper East Siders Save Scraps for Weekly Composting

By Amy Zimmer | June 4, 2012 8:52am
An image of leftovers at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street movement that were being composted. The Upper East Side has two new compost drop off sites.
An image of leftovers at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street movement that were being composted. The Upper East Side has two new compost drop off sites.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

MANHATTAN — Upper East Siders are learning to save their food scraps.

For nearly four years, the advocacy group Upper Green Side has been trying to figure out an effective way and place to run a composting program so residents can bring their fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg and nut shells, dried flowers and such non-greasy food remnants as bread or cereal.

Last month, they launched a regular compost drop off site. 

Working with GrowNYC's Office of Recycling and Education Outreach as part of a new Department of Sanitation effort, the group is now collecting compost every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the 82nd Street Greenmarket, between First and York avenues. Upper Green Side will also kick off Sunday compost collection at the 92nd Street Greenmarket, at First Avenue, on June 17. The collection will also be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The first week at 82nd Street, the compost filled up more than half a giant trash bin, said Upper Green Side’s Sarah Gallagher. The second week filled almost the entire bin.  By the third week, there was enough compost to fill two bins. Two weeks later, nearly three bins — or more than 15 bags of compost — were collected.

“It’s astonishing,” Gallagher said. “People are incredibly responsive. I think there’s a tremendous amount of good will. People want to do it when they come to the market.”

“More and more restaurants are doing it," she added.

With no place to bring her compost on the Upper East Side, Gallagher had been storing her food scraps in an elegant bin with a carbon filter — to keep odors to a minimum — and, like many of her neighbors, would then take them down from her apartment in the East 60s to the Union Square Greenmarket — which has been collecting compost for nearly 20 years. 

Some people store their scraps in the freezer until they can take them to be composted, Gallagher said. 

“When they see that cockroaches and mice aren’t going to run through their apartments and the smell won’t be bad, they realize they can do this,” Gallagher said.

“Food scraps are something that should not go into the trash. They can be used for rich soil, which in turn can be used for trees. There’s something so much better we can be doing with it than throwing it in the garbage.”

Food makes up roughly 17 percent of the city’s waste stream, according to GrowNYC’s website. When sent to a landfill it adds to the city’s disposal costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Gallagher noted that the Upper East Side was already a close third in terms of Manhattan’s recycling totals.

“I've made up my mind we should be first,” she said.

Her group also runs special recycling events for electronics, clothes collection and paper shredding.

“I want credit to go to the community,” Gallagher said. “They should be feeling warm and fuzzy about the increase in composting.”

She’s hopeful it will catch on even more in the neighborhood. 

“I’m waiting for someone to step out of their limo and hand in their compost.”

The weekly composting will collect food scraps and clothing. For a list of what can be composted visit GrowNYC.