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Massive Composting Scheme Planned for Green Skyscrapers

By Mathew Katz | October 15, 2012 7:11am

HELL'S KITCHEN — And you thought separating your paper and plastics was a chore.

The pioneering developers at The Durst Organization plan to launch a revolutionary composting program at the 600-unit Helena building, at 601 W. 57th St., within the next few months.

If it works, it will be implemented building-wide at a new apartment complex under construction next to the Helena, allowing residents to keep their organic waste out of landfills as easily as they recycle their empty cans and bottles.

Tenants of the new 32-story, 750-unit building — scheduled to open in 2015 — will be able to throw their vegetable peels, used coffee grounds and other compostable trash into a biodegradable paper bag, then toss it in a special communal bin in the building's garbage rooms.

From there, it will be picked up and hauled away like any other trash — except it will be used to fertilize soil instead of cram a landfill.

The program, still in the planning stages, will launch as a pilot at the Helena.

With 1,350 apartments between the two buildings, the eco-friendly plan will be one of the largest organized residential composting programs in the city.

"We're very close to implementing a compost on the Helena," said Amanda Kaminsky, Durst's Sustainable Construction Manager.

"We’re just trying to learn a lot right now because it’s just not done at this sort of scale now."

The waste will be taken from the Helena three times a week by a Department of Sanitation hauler, which is already in the area collecting compost as part of a pilot program on Upper West Side.

In the short term, it will be taken to the city's compost facility on Rikers Island, according to a spokesman for the Sanitation Department.

The new building will also have textile and battery disposals in its garbage rooms, allowing residents to dispose of their waste in the most eco-friendly way possible.

“I think it makes a lot of sense to divert more waste than we are currently from landfill,” said Kaminsky.

“It has a lot of very beneficial uses.”

Composting is on the rise in the city, with eco-conscious New Yorkers putting aside their biodegradable waste so it can decompose naturally and help local soil and gardens.

Compostable materials typically include the smellier parts of the trash bin — things like apple cores, meat, bones, and peels, along with other things that decompose like wet paper towels or used tissues.

But right now, many New Yorkers have to schlep their compost to collection centers that can often be found at local farmers' markets, or pay someone to pick it up.

The Durst model would allow residents of the buildings to toss out their organic waste without ever going outside, which the company hopes will encourage more residents to compost. Organizers also will provide residents with biodegradable paper bags for waste to get them started.

"We're prioritizing collections of compostable materials in the building," said Kaminsky.

"With collection in the base of the building, we want to make it easy for tenants to drop off their compostables."

The program is similar to "green bin" collection, which created citywide residential composting programs in places like Toronto, where it diverts 100,000 tons from landfills each year.

The composting program is one of many green initiatives the developer plans for the building. Durst is also using locally sourced, eco-conscious building materials, Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood and providing residents with charging stations for electric cars.