Recycling Buzz in NY: Questions Answered

The response has been great to Sunday’s New York Times story on recycling in New York City. Not surprisingly, we've been asked a lot of questions about what we do and what more the city can do. Here are a few answers.

Why did Global Green start this program in NY?

We started with New York because of the number of restaurants and the magnitude of the waste here. New York has a significant trash and waste problem. Also, the price of sending materials to the landfill is higher here than it is in much of the rest of the country. So if we can get it recycled, then it will actually be a savings to the restaurants -- and that is obviously a great place to start.

Why can't NYC mandate all packaging be compostable like San Francisco?

First and foremost, New York City doesn't have the infrastructure to support it and it's irresponsible to call for a certain type of packaging without the appropriate infrastructure in place. Developing the infrastructure is the first step.

What would it take for New York City to develop a composting infrastructure?

There already are a number of initiatives underway to develop such an infrastructure, and we are playing a leading role in helping to develop it. First, a law passed in the summer of 2010 stating that the Department of Sanitation, in conjunction with the Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, recommend methods to expand the diversion of the compostable waste stream. Some of the specific areas of evaluation include the viability of implementing curbside organics collection, the available capacity at composting facility surrounding New York City, and opportunities to expand capacity at these facilities. Additionally the report will address opportunities to grow and support voluntary composting. The report is scheduled to be completed by July 2012.

What is Global Green doing to facilitate food waste recovery infrastructure for New York City?

To accelerate the development of a reliable, environmentally sound, and economical food waste infrastructure, specifically for the foodservice industry, we are seeking to both spur innovation and activity amongst the private sector to develop needed infrastructure as well as inform the study the city is developing.

As part of this initiative, we are developing a conceptual plan for recovering the 1,100 tons per day of food waste generated by New York City's accommodation and foodservice sectors. To develop this plan, we are evaluating siting options and operational and environmental attributes of a range of technologies and collection scenarios and regularly convening a diverse group of stakeholder to raise awareness about the opportunities and develop solutions to existing challenges. We hosted a meeting in July with those in the industry to discuss next steps and plan another meeting in November.

I'm a New Yorker. What composting options are available in New York for composting food waste and compostable packaging?

There are three composting facilities accepting food waste from some of New York City's restaurants and grocery stores. These include McEnroe Farms in Millerton, NY (102 miles from in NYC), New Milford Farms in New Milford, CT (84 miles from NYC), and Peninsula Compost in Wilmington, DE (approximately 130 miles from NYC). Peninsula Compost in Wilmington, DE, is the largest compost facility in the Eastern United States and is permitted to receive 550 tons of organic waste per day. We visited this facility a few weeks ago (post, including video is here).

On the residential side, there are a number of voluntary programs that receive strong participation. A few of these include:

GrowNYC: 11 Greenmarket drop-off sites where customers can buy food and drop off their food scraps in the same location.

Lower East Side Ecology Center: A composting facility in Manhattan that generates compost from food scraps dropped off at Union Square. Compost and potting soil products made from the food scraps are also sold at Union Square.

Western Queens Compost Initiative: An initiative to collect food waste at compost to generate support community gardens and urban farms.