Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why City Composting Should Start in Brooklyn, NOT Staten Island

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 1:42 PM


On February 14, Mayor Bloomberg announced the introduction of a pilot program for composting, aka curbside recycling of food waste and scraps. In Staten Island. Predictably the complaints began immediately, as Staten Islanders and their Republican reps asked City Hall to 'stop putting garbage and Staten Island in the same sentence' and declared themselves future victims of excessive enforcement.

Why the Mayor's office would choose the most conservative, least green part of the city to roll out an essential, but delicate and demanding program like this is beyond me. They claim the high number of single-family homes will make early implementation easier, and I'm sure on a very practical level that's true: one house, one bin, no need to tackle the logistics of compost-keeping for multi-unit buildings of varying sizes.

But practical considerations pale beside the battles of winning over hearts and minds already hardened to environmental issues, and educating those who seem likely to need a ground-up course in the whys and wherefores of composting itself. The energy the city will have to expend to spread the word, and pick up waste from a relatively sparsely populated borough seems like a poor investment for a probably tiny return.

Far better to tackle logistical issues with a more willing group of residents, living closer together: Park Slope, for example, seems like a better place to start. Already inclined to be green, many Slopers are well versed in composting, with area community gardens and farmers markets accept compostables; I'd also wager there are enough people already trying to deal responsibly with their food waste to start the municipal program with a bit of energy.

And since the administration will have to figure out how to deal with something more complicated than single-family homes pretty fast, why start with the exception, rather than dealing with the rule?

Oh well. You, me and everyone else can take solace that there can be, and there is, a good deal of composting happening in the absence of any city program. I used to have to schlep a carefully camouflaged compost bucket from Williamsburg to Union Square: while it was sometimes fun to watch riders catch a whiff and try to figure out where the smell was coming from (the horror!), I'm happier living in a city that now has many more options. McCarren Park is a lot easier to get to…

GrowNYC collects food scraps at 25 greenmarkets around the city. Numerous community gardens accept compostables, and the wonderful folks at Build It Green NYC are now collecting from commuters at the N/Q train at Broadway in Astoria on Tuesday mornings.

For the truly dedicated, there's always the DIY approach: vermicomposting, or maintaining your own worm bin at home. It really is easy and, as long as you do it right, clean and odor-free. And of course diverting your compostables means your actual trash is much more pleasant to deal with—no more drippy coffee-ground spills or slimy veg scraps.

To that end there's an Indoor Composting workshop at the Lower East Side Ecology Center tonight: for the low, low price of $5 you can learn the ins and outs of worm care, and score a worm bin for the discounted price of $44. And just think of the cocktail party conversation you'll be able to make: tell anyone you have a pound of worms living in your apartment, and I guarantee you'll have their attention.

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