The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has undeniably affected all of us around the world, forcing local and national leaders to issue stay-at-home orders in their cities, states, and countries to aggressively fight the outbreak and flatten the curve. With these rules in place, essential workers are the only individuals who should be out and about, with the exception of when we need to do our necessary errands like grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions.
Unfortunately one of the (many) downsides of this pandemic is the suspension of city programs that we know and love, such as the curbside composting program in NYC (from May 4, 2020 to June 30, 2021). I want to recognize fellow environmental activist Anna Sacks for her petition to urge Mayor de Blasio to continue this program, as it is essential to more than 3.5 million NYC residents who participate in this program. Without it, we can see 308,600 lb of organics getting sent to landfills and incinerators every day (if we accept the news and don’t do anything).
As challenging as this news is, we still have the ability to compost! Here are ways you can compost in NYC while curbside composting is suspended:
DIY Indoor Composting with a Worm Bin (Vermicomposting)
This is probably the most cost- and space-efficient option for NYC residents where many of us live in closet-sized apartments! You can make your own bin using a large plastic container with a lid and a drill (or something to poke holes). The NYC Compost Project offers a really helpful guide to help you get started.
Pro tip: Keep the worms’ home healthy and avoid scraps that might harm them.
DIY Outdoor Composting
If you have outdoor space, this is a great option for you, and it can be very cost-efficient as well! There are two main types of compost bins: a holding unit (for yard waste only) and an enclosed bin (yard waste and kitchen scrap-friendly). If you want to DIY, you can find some wooden pallets for holding units (I have always seen them left on the curb or in the parking lots of supermarkets) or use an old garbage can that has a lid for your enclosed bin. The NYC Compost Project also has a useful guide if you choose this option!
Pro tip: there are various articles that will tell you how to balance your green vs. brown scraps, but you will likely have to start composting and adapt and refine what you put into your bin as you go!
Compost Pickup Services with Reclaimed Organics (Manhattan residents)
Manhattan residents south of 86th Street are able to participate in Common Ground Compost’s residential compost collection service for a small fee per bucket.
I also wanted to note that once they are operating normally (post-COVID-19), they do offer free compost drop-off.
I want to note that this is not an exhaustive list of composting options (there are compost digesters and the bokashi method, for example), but simply the more feasible ways you might want to continue composting considering our current situation. I hope these are helpful and that you will try to compost at home to help offset some of the impact this suspension will have for the environment!
When business operations are back to normal, I want to highlight some resources for where you can drop off your compost in the city:
- GrowNYC’s food scrap drop-off sites (citywide)
- LES Ecology Center compost drop-off sites (Manhattan)
- Common Ground Compost’s Reclaimed Organics compost drop-off (Manhattan)
- Sharewaste is also a good resource for people in the community to connect with each other to share organic scraps or offer their home compost bin with people in their neighborhood. Some members are still listed here so you might have some luck if they are in your area to drop off your food scraps!
UPDATE: Urge the NYC Council to Ensure NYC Continues to Have Access to Free, Public Composting
In the petition for continued composting in NYC, Anna shared an update to contact Corey Johnson, Speaker of the New York City Council, and urge him to reopen and expand the community compost drop-off sites (complying with COVID-19 safety measures and social distancing regulations) before the 2021 budget is approved. See her petition for Speaker Johnson’s contact information and suggested email template.