Food Waste Archives - NYC Composting | NYC Compost Consultants | Common Ground Compost

What Can & Cannot Be Composted in NYC

The word “organic” means anything relating to or derived from living matter. All organic material can be composted, but not always by the same process. Animal bones and wilted lettuce compost under the right conditions, but different microorganisms are needed to do the work, and will finish the task on different timelines. Because there are many different processes for breaking down organic material, different sites and haulers accept slightly varying materials. Typically, if you are dropping food scraps at a collection point in NYC the following items are not acceptable: meat, bones, fish, dairy, fats/oils, and Certified Compostable Products. If your organics are being collected curbside or by a private hauler, a wider variety of materials, included those just listed, are generally accepted.

 

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Bonus points!

  • Be sure to remove all stickers and rubber bands from your vegetable and fruit scraps.
  • If you’re composting large items, such as a whole melon that got too ripe, chop it into pieces that are small enough to fit in your palm.

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GrowNYC Greenmarket, Commuter Drop-Off, & Community Garden Programs

Acceptable:

  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Non-greasy foods, such as rice, pasta, bread, cereal, or grains
  • Coffee grounds & filters
  • Tea bags
  • Egg and Nut shells
  • Pits
  • Dried or cut flowers
  • House plants & potting soil *please do not compost plants that are diseased or infested with bugs

Not Acceptable:

  • Meat, Chicken or Fish
  • Coconuts
  • Bones or Shells
  • Fats or oils
  • Dairy
  • Animal Waste
  • Litter or bedding
  • Coal or charcoal
  • Disease and/or insect-infested houseplants & soil
  • Certified compostable products (such as cups or utensils

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NYC Curbside Collection

Acceptable:

  • Fruit & vegetable scraps
  • Non-greasy foods, such as rice, pasta, bread, cereal, or grains
  • Coffee grounds & filters
  • Tea bags
  • Egg and Nut shells
  • Pits
  • Dried or cut flowers
  • House plants & potting soil
  • Meat, chicken, fish, bones & oily foods
  • Plate scraps
  • Soiled papers & napkins
  • Certified compostable products (such as cups or utensils)

Not Acceptable:

  • Animal Waste
  • Litter or bedding
  • Coal or charcoal
  • Disease and/or insect-infested houseplants & soil

NYC’s Commercial Composting Laws

NYC’s commercial composting laws are in place and being enforced. Never fear, we’ll help you stay up to date and in compliance!

The most recent official notice regarding commercial organics rules was released on January 19, 2016. Link to the official notice here. The rules were put into effect on July 19, 2016 and were made enforceable by law on January 19, 2017. These rules are outlined below for your convenience.

What types of businesses are required by NYC law to separate their organic waste?

  • Any food service establishment in a hotel with 150 rooms or more
  • Any food service venue in an arena or stadium with seating for +15,000 people
  • Any food manufacturer with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet
  • Any food wholesaler with a floor area of at least 20,000 square feet

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For these businesses, what types of organics must be separated?

  • Food scraps including grains, vegetable and fruit trimmings, bread, animal bones, coffee grinds, etc. (excluding material sold to farmers or rendering companies, or food that is donated)
  • Plant trimmings
  • Food-soiled paper
  • Certified compostable products (more on “Certified Compostable Products” coming soon!)

How to comply and avoid violations:

  • Use labeled containers designated specifically for organics and post signage with clear instructions about separation requirements in areas where customers or staff are disposing of waste. These steps will help reduce cross-contamination among the various waste streams – a major problem in the recycling industry.
  • On that note, always be sure that organics are placed in the appropriate containers and are not mixed with garbage or recyclables.image4
  • Arrange for organic waste to be transported and/or processed separately from garbage and recycling. Post a sign next to your BIC decal that clearly indicates your arrangement, (this will be provided by your hauling company). Here are some options:
  1. The most common solution is to hire a private carter and be sure to comply with that carter’s specifications, (especially for items like Certified Compostable Products).
  2. A far less common option is to register with the NYC Business Integrity Commission to legally self-transport your organic waste. Application for Self Hauler Registration.
  3. The final, and most intensive option, is to process your organic waste on-site using aerobic or anaerobic practices, usually with a machine or technology installed on premises (a food waste grinder is not permitted). IF you go this route, be sure to register HERE within 30 days of installation and maintain records for a minimum of three years. We can help if you are interested in exploring options for onsite processing. It is important to note that some processing technologies cannot accept all organic matter (like large bones, and very fibrous materials like artichokes and pineapple tops). For any organic waste that can’t be processed on site, businesses must either haul away or self haul the material to be in compliance with the law.

Additional Tips:

  • Performing a waste audit is a great way to identify unnecessary waste and find ways to save money! Call the CGC team to help, or you can do it yourself using the EPA’s website to guide your process.
  • Donating food is an excellent way to both give back to your community and reduce your hauling costs. Visit donateNYC for more info on where to donate.
  • If you suspect that your carter or building management is not handling organics properly, file a complaint with the DSNY.

CATEGORY: COMMERCIAL

TAGS: Hauling, Signage, Sustainability, Food Waste, Composting, Commercial Composting, DSNY, Laws, Regulations, Compliance, Waste Audit, Organic Waste

Commercial Composting in NY

Whether you work in a shared office space with a foosball table, a fancy corporate headquarters with a skyline view, a hot new restaurant, a late-night music venue, or a boutique cafe prizing latte art, you and your coworkers produce a variety of “waste”. Dealing with that waste is complicated, no doubt about it, and while environmentally responsible waste management isn’t always the easiest thing, it doesn’t have to be too difficult either. So whether you own a business, or work somewhere that could use a second look at its waste management policies, we’ve outlined some information below to help ease you into an environmentally sustainable operation.

 

image1In 2016 the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) released an Official Notice that outlines new recycling requirements for businesses. These will be enforceable by law starting August 2017. Additionally, as of July 19, 2016, certain large food waste generators in NYC are required by law to separate their organics. Official Notice here. The organics law applies if you are:

  • A food service establishment in a hotel with 150 rooms or more
  • A food service venue in an arena or stadium with seating for +15,000 people
  • A food manufacturer with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet
  • A food wholesaler with a floor area of at least 20,000 square feet

For more information on the regulations, we’ve written a POST for you!

If none of the above apply to you, but you want to compost your organic waste anyway, we applaud you! Here are some compelling reasons to justify this change to your employees, to convince your boss, or just to brag…

  1. Reduced Odors and Pests: Placing food scraps in sealed, leak-proof buckets and/or toters instead of black trash bags makes it hard for vermin and insects to get in and for odors to get out. If you work in an office with a kitchen, you can store food scraps in the refrigerator or freezer, or even start fermenting your food scraps with a pre-composting process using bokashi (more on that soon). Odors be gone!
  2. Employee Engagement: Green practices increase employee satisfaction and productivity. Naturally, people enjoy feeling that the work they do has a positive impact. By creating an eco-conscious environment, a business is more likely to extract higher quality work and attain greater commitment by their employees. Composting is a great place to start.
  3. Sustainability is Appreciated: In our current climate, awareness is everything and caring about the earth is cool. Consumers notice eco-friendly efforts and want to support businesses that integrate sustainability into their bottom line. If two different cafes offered the same exact coffee, but one served in compostable cups, and the other in survive-the-apocalypse-foam cups, which would you choose for your morning joe? Exactly.
  4. Cost Savings: Organics are one of the heaviest components of waste. A post-composting analysis of your waste bill will likely show cost savings that result from diverting heavy food scraps from landfills. This is not a guarantee, but the commercial composting landscape in and around NYC is rapidly evolving, and changes that incentivise composting in the future are increasingly likely.
  5. Healthier Planet: Throwing organic materials into the garbage is harmful to the environment. Organic material decomposing in landfills releases methane, a gas 20 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. By separating organic waste, your business will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously aid in the creation of nutrient-rich fertilizers and/or renewable energy.

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Now armed with five reasons to compost, how do you actually go about putting your fantastic idea into action? The easiest thing to do would be to call or email your friends at Common Ground Compost so we can evaluate your business and help you implement a new system that fits seamlessly with your current operation. But if you’re a DIY’er (much respect), here are some steps you can take…

 

 

FIRST: How are you going to dispose of your organic waste?

a.) Hire a private hauler for multiple waste streams, including food waste. It’s

a good idea to get multiple quotes to find the best price. HERE is a list of vendors as of 2015 to get you started. We recommend asking about the programs a potential hauler provides and confirming they work with your type of business.

b.) Hire a micro-hauler (for organic waste only). The following organizations work in NYC and, for a small fee, will pick up your organics and process them locally.

c.) Self-transport. Most NYC businesses will not elect to self-transport organic waste to a processing facility, but if you do, you must register with the NYC Business Integrity

Commission.

d.) Process on site. For most NYC businesses, processing organic waste on site

will not be possible. However if you are able and choose to do so, you must register

with the DSNY within 30 days of installing on-site processing equipment – check out our post on commercial compost regulations, or contact us to discuss!

SECOND: Depending on who will be processing your organic waste, make sure you know the rules for what can and cannot be composted. This can vary greatly depending on whether your hauler uses an aerobic or anaerobic process, or whether they are a massive facility or a local organization. This is especially true when it comes to dairy and meat products. We can help by contacting your hauling company and/or speaking directly to the compost facility.

THIRD: Educate your employees or fellow co-workers. Find out who on staff is particularly excited to be composting and see if they are interested in managing the process. Make sure your new waste management system is clear enough for a baby to understand. Color coded bins and signs can be really helpful here. We love signage.

FOURTH: Shout it out, loud and proud! Let all customers and visitors know how to dispose of their waste effectively. Make it known that you’re a business that cares about the environment. Post it on your website! Put a sign in the window. No one will chide you for gloating about your waste stream mastery, quite the contrary.

AND IF THAT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF WORK…

What with all the other responsibilities you have at your job… call us! That’s why we’re here. We’ll come to your place of business (our first site visit is complimentary), and we can perform a waste audit. Next, we’ll contact your existing haulers to make sure you’re getting the best deal on all of your waste streams. If you’re not, we’ll help you get the best bang for your buck. During that initial site visit, we will walk through your business to understand your current layout, and can work with you to determine a seamless waste strategy, educate your employees, set up the necessary infrastructure, and be available to you for any hiccups or questions that arise while you’re adapting. We even provide high fives, free of charge! We love high-fives almost as much as we love composting.

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Residential Composting in NY

You’ve heard whispers about New York City’s  “Zero Waste” plan and noticed folks carrying those flashy orange totes around; you bumped into a brown organics collection bin in the lobby of your friend’s apartment in Brooklyn that you could swear wasn’t there before; or perhaps you’re just tired of tripping over mounds of garbage bags on the sidewalk and wondering “will anyone put an end to this?!”. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to start managing your waste more responsibly. That’s an awesome idea! You’ve come to the right place to get educated.

Let’s start with the facts: NYC collects over 3 million tons of trash and recycling every year from residents alone – when combined with commercial, construction, and demolition waste that’s a whopping 14 million tons annually.[1] Yikes. Moreover, NYC’s residential recycling rate is at a measly 15% when in fact over 30% of our waste can be recycled curbside, another 30% can be composted, and a final 10% can be reused or donated![2] So let’s talk about what to do with that 30% of organic waste. That’s why you’re here after all, right?

image1Source: NYC Dept. of Sanitation, NYC Mayor’s Office, 2011

Let’s tackle the “I-can’t-compost-because” myths:

I don’t have a backyard.

  • That’s okay! No need to process your organic waste yourself. You can simply collect acceptable waste and food scraps and hand them off to someone else to do the dirty work of converting it into… dirt! Or renewable energy.

Ok but there’s no convenient way for me to get rid of it!

Have you looked into these options?

  • Drop-off Sites. If you live in an area where curbside pickup is not yet an option, here is a map of GrownNYC drop-off sites all over the city. Be sure to click on your nearest site and check the schedule as many sites are only available on certain days.
  • Curbside Collection. This option is expanding rapidly, so check out the Department of Sanitations website to see what’s available in your area. You can also input your address here to see if your building is eligible. You can find more information and request a bin for your building from the Department of Sanitation HERE.
  • Pickup Services. There are more and more local businesses who will take organic waste off your hands for a small fee.

I don’t understand what constitutes organic waste.

We understand, it can get a little complicated!

  • GrowNYC: If you’re dropping compost off at a GrowNYC greenmarket, acceptable items include fruit & veggie scraps, non-greasy food scraps (rice, pasta, bread, cereal), coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, nuts, pits, and flowers or plants. See HERE for more details. This material is transferred to a handful of local sites where it gets converted through an aerobic process into fertile soil to be used at local urban farming and gardening projects.
  • NYC Compost Project: The DSNY supports seven “demonstration sites” that have “exemplary composting operations and effectively engage their communities in making and using finished compost.”[3] Material from the NYC compost project is processed in the five boroughs using a variety of aerobic processes, and some these sites are open for public tours upon request! If one of these sites is convenient for you, check their website for details on what materials they accept.
  • Curbside Collection: Believe it or not, if you’re enrolled in NYC’s curbside collection program, it’s easier to tell you what you can’t compost: liquids; traditional recyclables including metal, glass, plastic, cartons, clean paper and cardboard; plastic shopping bags and cling wrap; any bathroom or medical waste; animal or pet waste; and cigarette butts or ashes. EVERYTHING ELSE can be composted! This waste will be converted into renewable energy through an anaerobic process.

My roommates won’t be happy if I smell up the apartment with rotting food scraps.

  • We bet your roommates will thank you for composting! Most people report reduced kitchen odors after they start composting. Think about it, instead of mixing food scraps with other garbage and letting it sit for days under the sink or out in the open, they are separated from the rest of your trash and sealed off.
  • Similarly, in neighborhoods where smelly and easily accessible black trash bags have been replaced with sealed organics collection bins, rats populations have reduced. By carefully separating food scraps in your home, you will help deter pests as well.
  • Many NYC residents without the luxury of a backyard keep their compost in the fridge or freezer. You can store it in a tupperware container, reuse your arugula boxes, or fill up the paper bag from last weekend’s groceries and drop it at a local compost site, bag and all. Easy!
  • Alternatively, purchase one of these nifty countertop compost bins that are specifically designed to block odors. Store it on your countertop or under the sink. Some compost sites will accept food scraps delivered in compostable bags, but make sure they have the “ASTM D6400 specification” and check that your drop-off site accepts them before purchasing.

Keeping your organic waste out of landfills benefits you, your roommates, your community, the environment, and future generations. Not only are you diverting waste from overflowing landfills, you’re also reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions produced by rotting materials in landfills, contributing to the production of high-quality fertilizer for local use, and helping create a renewable energy source (biogas from methane at anaerobic digestion facilities). We dare you to give us a reason not to compost!

For more information about the movement towards creating a sustainable NYC, check out The OneNYC Plan (pg. 166) to reduce landfill waste by 90% by 2030 and lower greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Waste reduction is a really big deal, and incorporating responsible waste management routines, such as composting, into your daily life requires minimal effort. We are touched that you came to us to learn how to be an urban composter, welcome to the club!

eco vs. pollution

eco vs. pollution