Shooting for the Stars

June 26, 2008 at 10:52 pm 4 comments

Recycling is probably the most obvious way to reduce the waste going to landfills and incinerators.  But as environmentalists and food activists know, we can further reduce waste in another, though less obvious, way: through food composting.

In New York – a city that collects roughly 11,000 tons of garbage a day – the impact of composting could be enormous.  The New York Department of Sanitation estimates that 26 percent of its waste stream consists of food scraps and other organic material that could be composted.  That’s 2,860 tons of “garbage” a day that could be prevented from going to landfills, or roughly 1 million tons annually. 

I’ve been trying to find out how much of the 1 million tons of organic material is composted citywide, but so far that number has been hard to come by. 

I did find out, though, how much we’re recycling.  Want to venture a guess? In 2007, New Yorkers recycled 16.5 percent of their trash, according to the Department of Sanitation.  That’s not particularly good, especially given the superstar performance of Hamburg, Germany, Europe’s trash recycling champion.  According to a New York Times article, Hamburg today recycles 800,000 tons of the 1.4 million tons of trash it generates, or 57 percent. Not bad.  Not bad at all.

I thank environmental stars like Hamburg.  They give those left in their wake something to shoot for.   

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Entry filed under: Food Scraps. Tags: , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Antonio  |  June 27, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Is it the Aerobic composting the method used?

    I did not know what it was, but I found a definition in the glossary of an Australian website http://www.emrc.org.au. Aerobic composting is the controlled biological decomposition of organic materials under aerobic conditions, accomplished in open windrows or open static piles.
    There is also this link from the EPA about composting http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/composting/basic.htm

  • 2. mcorreia  |  June 28, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks, Antonio, for writing. The post refers to composting in the most general sense, meaning the decomposition of food. Although I’m not an expert, composting has to be “aerobic” or has to include air in order for food to decompose properly and into high-grade soil for plants and gardens. Thanks for the link from the EPA, the organization with the ultimate say on the subject.

  • 3. johnvturner  |  July 1, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Environmentalists and “food activists” aren’t the only people who compost – conservationists (among whom I count myself) also compost and have been doing so since before “environmentalists” or “food activists” even existed!

    I just thought you should know.

  • 4. mcorreia  |  July 2, 2008 at 12:46 am

    I didn’t mean to disrespect all you conservationists out there. However you categorize yourself – conservationist, environmentalist or food activist – you’re all admirable, remarkable human beings in my book. Thanks for writing and keeping me on my toes.

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