What exactly that’s looked like has shifted over the course of the years and been dependent on the services that the city itself provides, our proximity to drop-off sites, pandemic-related service disruptions, and the kindness of neighbors.
We started out by carting buckets of kitchen scraps to a compost drop-off location at our nearest farmers’ market. When the city started its brown bin program in 2018 we were lucky enough to live in a neighborhood (and a building) with the service. When that program halted entirely in the height of the pandemic, we had a short and successful stretch using an odorless indoor composting bin. Eventually, we befriended next door neighbors with a robust backyard compost operation and we began leaving a weekly bag of frozen compost for them to add to their pile. These days we’re back to having curbside compost collection and we’re back to using our building’s brown bin.
I’ll humbly submit that I think curbside compost collection should be a budgetary priority that’s accessible and indeed compulsory in every single neighborhood in this city. Currently the NYC program is available only in certain community boards and individuals have had to opt back into the program since it was reinstated last summer. So, here’s some earnest and updated encouragement for New Yorkers (and everyone) to stop trashing your organic waste.
In case specifics are helpful, here’s what’s been working best for us lately:
I suffer a bit from childhood memories of my grandmother’s very smelly countertop compost Tupperware, so I freeze my food scraps until they’re ready to add to the pile. Over the years we’ve kept these frozen scraps in brown paper bags, in stainless steel mixing bowls, in lidded plastic buckets with handles, and in compostable green bags. Most recently, our sweet spot has been lining a dedicated old mixing bowl with a compostable bag. The structure and support of the bowl means that it’s easy to pull out of the freezer and keep on the counter during food prep and to return again once finished. I resisted using compostable green bags for a long time because they’re not inexpensive and they seemed like an unnecessary additional step, but after lots of trial and error, I’ve found they keep things cleanest and make emptying the bowl into the brown bin significantly speedier than without. (I leave mine untied when they go into the bin to make sure they don’t interfere with decomposition.) There’s no one-size-fits-all here, but finding a process that works well for me right now has been crucial to me keeping up with the practice for so long.
For me, having a receptacle in the kitchen means that every single compostable item actually gets composted. Keeping that receptacle in the freezer means never dealing with odor or pest. And having that receptacle be large enough to hold several days to a week’s worth of scraps, saves on the number of trips I need to take down the stairs with compost in tow.
What works for you?
If you live in NYC community boards (Brooklyn 1, 2, 6, and 7, Manhattan 6 and 7, and Bronx 8) currently being serviced by Curbside Composting, make sure you’ve opted into the service by filling out the Curbside Composting Request Form or by calling 311. Currently only 6% of addresses in the 44 districts with the brown bin service have opted back in and we need to show the current administration that people are clamoring for this critical service.
Good news: Councilmember Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn) is the lead sponsor of a universal composting measure, which would phase in organic waste pick-up from residential buildings by mid-2023. Voice your support to your councilmember!