Sustainability Archives - NYC Composting | NYC Compost Consultants | Common Ground Compost

Certified Compostable Products

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PLEASE NOTE: We ALWAYS recommend that businesses replace disposable products with reusable ones. Waste reduction is the best way to handle your waste, followed by recycling and composting. Is there a way for you to stop using straws altogether, rather than looking for a compostable straw? Or coffee cup? Or plate? That’s the goal. If not, we’re here to help find the best solution.

 

 

So what is a “Certified Compostable Product”? And is biodegradable the same as compostable? What is BPI? What is ASTM D6400? What?? We’d like to help clarify some of the confusion around Certified Compostable Products that you might find in your business’s waste stream and shed some light on the conversation in general.

Let’s start by introducing the concept “greenwashing”. This is when businesses develop products that are either “green” in color, or “green” because they have leaves printed on them, but the products are not actually environmentally sustainable, or the entire story isn’t being told. Be mindful of greenwashing where you live, work and consume. Below we describe products that are actually compostable and not just pretending to be.

Here are legitimate Compost Certifications you will find on Disposable Products:

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BPI Certification

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ASTM D6400

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OK Compost

These are the compost industry standards for products that are “ok to compost” in industrial facilities (more on this below). BPI is the most commonly used certification in the US, and the [[vert]] is the European standard. When compost facilities see these certifications, they know that the products should break down properly in their industrial-scale compost operations. ASTM D6400 is an industry standard that usually refers to compostable bags.

We wish it were simpler, but there is no specific brand or material type that we can point to and honestly claim: “anything made by these guys, or anything made from this, is compost friendly.” Unfortunately there is just no broad-brush approach. Our best advice is to look for the BPI Certified Compostable stamp/icon whenever you’re purchasing items that you expect to send to a compost site. Also, if you’re not sure whether your coffee cup or to-go container is compostable, try looking on the bottom or side for these icons.

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Plant-Based Plastics

Plant-based plastics, like PLA, (polylactic acid), are tricky. We’re not materials scientists, but here’s how it works. It is possible to make “plastic” out of plants, using the natural sugars found in plant cells. However, sometimes products say that they are “made with plant plastics”, but are still not “certified compostable”.

It can be cheaper to mix plant-based plastics and regular petrochemical plastics together to make a fork, than it is to use 100% plant-based plastic. Once you get different types of plastics mixing together, the compostability of the final product goes out the window. You might see a product that says it is “made with plant plastic”, but you need to read the fine print to see that it is only x% plant plastic, and the remainder is regular PET (polyethylene terephthalate) or HDPE (high-density polyethylene) or another type of other plastic.

The most difficult reality here, is that once you mix a normally recyclable plastic, like PET or HDPE, with a plant-based plastic, like PLA, it becomes nearly impossible to recycle that product. The market is now flooded with products that are either compostable or recyclable, and those frequently look identical to other items that are neither compostable or recyclable.

image5Fiber-Based Compostables

Some compostable products look like they’re made of paper pulp. That’s because they are! Many compostable bowls and plates are made out of waste materials from other industrial processes. Bagasse, for example, is a byproduct of the sugarcane industry, which is now being used as a value-added product in the compostable product market. We’re excited to see these packaging innovations continuing to pop up!

Many compost facilities are willing to accept paper-based Certified Compostable Products, because they break down faster than PLA. Fiber-based compostables can be less expensive than plant plastics, and they sometimes have a lower production footprint as well, because they can be made of waste products, rather than from virgin materials like corn.

In an industrial composting environment, fiber-based compostable products act a lot like a paper product or another dry plant material, absorbing liquid and breaking down over time among other organics.

So what is a business owner to do!?

Inform yourself (if you’re reading this, then you’re already on the right track!). If you work with a compost hauler, make sure to confirm that the compost site they partner with can accept Certified Compostable Products. As an alternative, use regular-old recyclable plastic and metal products instead. Aluminium, when rinsed, is one of the most recyclable materials, so you might be better off simply ensuring that your aluminium recyclables are making their way to the proper facility. And of course, investing in reusable materials whenever possible is the absolute most eco-friendly solution.

Zero Waste Food Conference

“Eliminating food waste” was the theme of the inaugural Zero Waste Food Conference, hosted by The New School and the Institute of Culinary Education. The purpose of the two-day event, held on April 28th & 29th 2017, was to “discover better methods for the way we produce, distribute, consume and dispose of food in the environments where we cook and where we eat.” Panel discussions covered topics such as sustainable kitchen design, uncovering fresh connections in the food chain, and repurposing kitchen “scraps” into delicious, sustainable meals. Cooking demonstrations addressed food innovations such as beer made from surplus bread, butchery that wastes not, and the art of preservation through fermentation lead by pickling experts. The schedule was jam-packed with illuminating discussions and wow-factor cooking demos, we can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!

As a Zero Waste event, it was important that the conference produce as little landfill waste as possible. Common Ground Compost was thrilled to provide waste management services throughout both days to help achieve that goal. In preparation for the event, our staff assessed the various event spaces and designated optimal waste station placement. We communicated with the building staff to ensure they understood the plan for the conference, which included stationing volunteers at each waste station, to be sure that waste separation tips could easily be communicated to event attendees. Supervision at waste stations can be one of the most effective tools to reduce contamination in the recycling streams, and as was the case at the Zero Waste Food conference, the volunteers provided the added bonus of educating participants in responsible waste management in NYC. CGC provided waste stations and color-coded signage where needed, and had representatives present to prevent contamination and track the various waste streams. At the end of the day at each venue, we weighed every bag of waste and categorized it as either compost, recycling, mixed paper, or trash. Take a look at the waste characterization from the event, especially the high proportion of compostable waste!

We had such a blast contributing our services to this conference. We had great discussions with many curious participants about responsible recycling practices and even learned a thing or two about sustainable cooking!

If you are hosting an event of any kind and need waste management help, please reach out. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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Importance of Signage

You may have read the title of this post and thought: “Everyone knows how to recycle, do I really need to put up signs?” Yes you do! It’s very, very important, and it’s the law!. Most people know, or think they know, the basics of recycling, but when they are standing in front of three or more bins with a variety of waste products they are suddenly afflicted with trash-amnesia (not a real thing), or they’re skeptical that the location even recycles. TAKE THE GUESS WORK OUT OF IT. Recycling can be complicated, so confusion is understandable, but it should be 100% clear that your business does in fact recycle, and signs will make it clear! This assurance will motivate employees and customers to take the extra moment to sort their trash accurately, helping eliminate contamination of the recycling stream.

image2Waste stream contamination is one of the biggest problems in the recycling industry, and this problem can cripple the economics of recycling. Sorting mass amounts of recycling later in the process is time-consuming, costly, and detrimental — getting it right at the source is key, and that’s where you come in. Recycle Across America is a nonprofit devoted to solving this exact problem and their simple solution is, you guessed it, labels! (Another word for signage). We agree.

 

In order to get your employees and customers recycling properly, we cannot stress enough the importance of having accurately colored bins and clear signage. The standard in America is to have two blue bins (one for mixed paper and another for glass, cans and plastic), a green bin for compost, and a black bin for landfill. Color coding your receptacles is the first step, but including clear signage is even more important, and clearly labeled bins are the law in NYC, as of August 1st 2017! Ideally, post multiple signs on each bin so they are visible from the front and the top. Successful signage clearly states the type of waste to be disposed of and provides multiple examples of items that belong in each bin, using pictures.

If you work in a food establishment, consider the exact type of waste that your customers and employees will be sorting and address those in your signage. If you only have one sign or label, it’s best to put it on the top of (or on the wall just above) the bin to ensure that folks know what to do when they are standing over it. Always keep your receptacles arranged in the same order too, to avoid confusion.

These simple steps can make a real difference in your ability to recycle effectively. We’ve mentioned this before, but employees prefer to work for companies that display a sense of awareness and responsibility for the world. Similarly, customers like to support socially responsible businesses. So be a responsible recycler! For the sake of your business and the sake of our planet.

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If you want a consultation about responsible recycling in your space, give us a shout! We will gladly perform a waste audit, suggest optimal receptacle placement, provide customized and laminated signage, and train your employees to be recycling experts.

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 Recycling Laws

NYC’s commercial recycling laws are hard to keep up with and key information is often difficult to find. Don’t stress! We’ll help you stay up to date and in compliance.

The most recent official notice regarding commercial recycling rules in NYC was released by the NYC Department of Sanitation on February 5, 2016. Link to the official notice here. The rules outlined within were put into effect on August 1, 2016 and, after a year-long “warning period”, will be enforceable by law starting August 1, 2017.

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Recycling compliance 101: Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to recycling responsibly and in compliance with the law.

  1. Contract with a licensed carter that fits your needs and handles your specific waste materials. If you are a tenant in a building, and your building management handles waste, the easiest way to see if they’re doing it right is to think about how you manage waste in your own space. Are you separating recyclables into clearly labeled bins and using one of three options: source-separated collection, co-collection, or single-stream collection (more detail below)?
    • Your business must post a sign somewhere visible from outside the building that names your carter(s) and the materials they collect, as well as which method they are using for collection.
    • If you prefer to self-transport your recyclables – this is rare – register here.
    • Property owners and building management must notify tenants of their waste management policies annually.
  2. Set your customers and staff up for waste management success!
    • All receptacles should have clear labels and colors indicating a specific waste category
    • Recyclables must always be kept separate from garbage, both when they are being thrown into a bag at a waste bin, and when they are collected in a truck by your hauling company.
    • Posting clear signs for both staff and customers will help prevent contamination, which is a major problem in the recycling industry.

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Wait, can I recycle this?

There are two different recycling streams in NYC:

  1. Metal, Glass, Plastic, and Beverage Cartons: This stream includes…
    • Metal cans, aluminum foil, and other disposable foil containers (rinse your recyclables! They don’t need to be sparkling clean, but they shouldn’t make a mess in the recycling bin).
    • Glass jars & bottles – tops too! And while you’re at it, if you separate the top or lid from the container, it’ll have a better chance of being recycled properly.
    • Rigid plastics such as empty yogurt cups, empty plastic beverage bottles and tops, or empty food containers (rinsed out).
    • Mixed metal & plastic objects, such as plastic chairs with metal legs or filing cabinets (just check with your hauler and/or building management first, most buildings have “bulk” collection days when it’s best to bring this material to the curb)
    • Paper beverage cartons and juice boxes
  2. Paper. This stream includes:
    • Receipts
    • Mail
    • Notepads
    • Folders
    • Newspapers and magazines
    • Cardboard, such as boxes from packages or paper towel rolls

image6And here’s what cannot be recycled:

  • Non-rigid plastics such as plastic wrap*, empty chip bags and plastic shopping bags
  • Foam (expanded polystyrene, or EPS) products such as foam coffee cups or foam takeout containers
  • Soiled or coated paper, such as coffee filters (which can be composted!) or paper takeout containers (which are coated with wax to prevent leaking).
  • Food scraps (but of course, they can be composted!)
  • Large Furniture or mattresses

*If plastic wrap, (clear plastic film, like the Saran Wrap brand), is clean and dry, it CAN be recycled, but sometimes it must be collected separately from other recyclables. If your business produces lots of clean and dry wrap, we recommend that you contact your hauling company to discuss options for recycling it.

A couple extra things to note regarding…

  • TEXTILES: If textiles make up more than 10% of your business’s waste, you are required by law to recycle all fabric scraps, clothing, belts, bags, and shoes. For more information on this visit refashionNYC. We are also big fans of FabScrap, an organization dedicated to helping recycle commercial fabric scraps.
  • YARD OR PLANT WASTE: If yard or plant waste makes up more than 10% of your business’s waste, you are required to recycle it separately from other recyclables. This includes plant waste, grass clippings, garden debris, leaves, and branches.
  • ORGANICS: Certain large, food-waste generating business are required to separate their organics for composting. Much more on this here.

There are the three acceptable recycling systems for most* businesses:

  1. Source-Separated Recycling: As the name suggests, this system requires the business (source) to separate their three streams of waste (glass/metal/plastic recyclables, mixed paper, landfill garbage) for collection by three separate trucks.
  2. Co-Collection Recycling: Some haulers may be permitted to collect more than one type of recycling in a single truck. The business (the source) would still put mixed paper in one bag, and glass/metal/plastic in another, but the carter could legally put these two different recycling streams into the same truck for collection and transit to a recycling facility. In this case, buildings must post a sign indicating that co-collection is being used and the name of the authorized carter.
  3. Single-Stream Recycling (also referred to as “mixed recycling”): In this scenario the source (business) is only handling two waste streams – (recyclables & paper) and garbage – to be collected by two separate trucks. Glass/metal/plastic, and mixed paper go into the same bag, and are collected by a recycling truck.

*For businesses that produce +10% of their waste in textiles, yard waste, or organics, additional procedures are required.

In ALL cases, it is illegal for a hauling company to collect recyclable waste in the same truck as trash. If you see black trash bags in the same truck as clear or colored recycling bags, red flag! Something is amiss. (It’s true that trucks break down, or sometimes there’s a one-off collection that doesn’t go as planned, but if you see this consistently, you should give us a call.)

Why are there so many options? Does it really have to be this complicated? The main source of complication lies in the fact that recycling facilities and hauling companies are typically separate entities. Sometimes a recycling facility will have their own hauling operation, which results in better communication from source to plant and more accountability on the side of the haulers. Regardless, the City is moving towards a single-stream system, so in time, we’ll be seeing more “mixed recycling” and less “source separated recycling”, leaving the complicated stuff to the experts. Until then, the consumer still has to put in the leg work to ensure that their recycling is being properly processed. (Interested in seeing a dedicated post on Single-Stream Recycling, or anything else? Contact us!)

Consider this scenario: a business is set up with source-separated recycling, but they aren’t properly separating their recyclables into two different streams (mixed paper / plastic, metal, glass). Their mixed paper hauler picks up what looks to them like the mixed paper recycling bags and brings them to a recycling plant that processes mixed paper. That plant, which might not have the sorting technology to deal with glass, metal, and plastic, has to manually sort through these bags and might treat anything that’s not mixed paper as trash. In this scenario, more work has been created for the facility (or the hauler, depending on the relationship that exists between hauler and recycling facility), to sort the unacceptable items (an economic hardship), and many perfectly recyclable products might go to the landfill.

We have some good news, which is that new recycling facilities are putting specialized technology in place to separate lots of types of recyclables. We will be seeing more and more of these facilities in the future. For now, not all commercial hauling companies have relationships with these specialized facilities. The NYC Business Integrity Commission has a specific form for haulers to complete when they wish to collect Single Stream (mixed recycling) from commercial clients, which asks them to identify the destination (the specific recycling facility) for the recyclable materials. If you are unsure about your hauler’s Single Stream recycling process, the easiest thing to do is to ask if they have submitted this application to BIC.

Now get sorting!

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