Leah Retherford, the NYC Compost Project hosted by Big Reuse Project Manager, fills us in on the scope and emphasis of the composting operation at Big Reuse.
At Big Reuse, the NYC Compost Project fulfills its mission of rebuilding city soil in three areas that cycle into one another. We divert organic waste from the landfill through our food scrap drop-off program, we process organics — over 1 million pounds in 2015 — into finished compost, and we return the compost to the soil through our community partners and own community greening work.
We interact with the most people through our Food Scrap Drop-off Program — over 40,000 drop-offs each year! We staff 12 Food Scrap Drop-Off sites located in Western Queens, Roosevelt Island, and Northern Brooklyn. At these sites, participants can learn about the Department of Sanitation’s recycling and sustainability programs, the Organics Curbside pilot, and general composting advice, in addition to getting the lowdown on how to drop off food scraps. And, we are not alone in our efforts!
After organic wastes are dropped off at one of our sites, they are transported to our community composting site underneath the Queensboro Bridge. Here they are transformed over the course of 4 months from food scraps, wood chips, leaves, oxygen, water, and a lot of elbow grease into finished compost. We use innovative, small-scale composting technology that has been incrementally and collectively developed through trial and error by many talented current and former employees (and composting geniuses). If you want to know more about our aerated static pile (ASP), how we use an agricultural feed mixer to prepare our compost recipe, or what a Gore Cover, Toter Tipper, or Sittler Screener is, schedule a group tour or volunteer with us at one of our Processing Site Volunteer Days. Last year, we worked with 600 dedicated volunteers to improve the soil in our community.
Finally, we get to the end — or maybe the beginning — product. Finished compost is an amazing tool to illustrate the usefulness of diverting food scraps from landfills. We partner with local community groups to improve the health of trees, parks, and gardens using our compost and mulch. Through these outreach activities we also provide education on how to be a steward for community green spaces, building the soil that will promote plant health and helping these spaces thrive.
The NYC Compost Project hosted by Big Reuse is one of seven compost projects across the city. The NYC Compost Projects have varying programmatic directions, but we all share a mission of rebuilding NYC’s soil by providing New Yorkers with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to produce and use compost locally. Carrying out this mission can take many forms — from educating a new cohort of Master Composters who will become compost ambassadors in their communities to distributing finished compost to neighborhood greening groups.
We are continuously growing our organic waste diversion and compost distribution efforts, and it’s a constant learning process. While we haven’t yet reached the collective goal of powering time machines from banana peels, we do think we’re helping to make the present pretty fresh!