Posts tagged ‘NYC Compost Project’

A Return to — and on — the Earth

©Margarida Correia. Aurelia Kaelin oversees the collection of 2,100 to 3,600 pounds of kitchen scraps from eco-conscious New Yorkers. The site is located at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Rain or shine, Aurelia Kaelin never falls down on her  job at the Union Square Greenmarket:  setting up the city’s biggest and best-known site for eco-conscious New Yorkers to drop off kitchen scraps for composting.

Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, Kaelin dutifully hauls out large plastic bins and unfolds a table where she lays out sacks of potting soil made from city compost.

“I’m the ‘worm lady,’” she declares when asked for her title at the Lower East Side Ecology Center, which runs the popular composting program.  The unpretentious title she ascribes herself is, of course, a reference to the use of worms in the compost-making process.

Kaelin says people sometimes call her the “compost lady.” “They even call me,” she lowers her voice, “the trash lady.”

But Kaelin doesn’t seem to mind.  She’s doing something she believes in.

Kaelin oversees the daily collection of seven to 12 bins of kitchen scraps.  That’s about 2,100 to 3,600 pounds of food refuse that otherwise would have gone to landfills. The Manhattan-based compost program is part of the citywide NYC Compost Project created by the Department of Sanitation.

For New Yorkers unable to get to Union Square, there are several other places where they can drop off their food scraps. Many community gardens accept food waste from their members and in some instances, from the public.  Food waste donors – whether members of community gardens or not – are expected to empty their scraps into receptacles at the sites, as they would at the Union Square Greenmarket.  Each community garden is different, with some charging modest compost membership fees or requiring new food waste donors to take a brief training and orientation session.

In addition, two other Greenmarkets — one in Fort Greene and another in Sunnyside — have set up systems to take food scraps from the public.   And a few CSA sites are beginning to experiment with accepting food waste from their members.

Jodie Colon, a compost educator at the NYC Compost Project in the Bronx, encourages New Yorkers to build their own indoor or outdoor composting systems.  The NYC Compost Project runs composting workshops year-round in all boroughs.  (I attended one and blogged about it here.)

For New Yorkers without the time, space or inclination to make their own compost, diverting food scraps from New York City’s enormous trash load is likely to be the best they can do to fulfill their environmental civic duties.  For those New Yorkers, the following list might help.

In the Bronx:

The Bronx Green-Up group of the New York Botanical Garden connects residents with community gardens in the Bronx that accept food scraps for composting.  To link up with a community garden, e-mail

In Brooklyn:

  • For a modest membership fee, New Yorkers can use the Garden of Union in Park Slope (638 Union St.) to compost their food waste.  Members go through a half-hour training session and are given a key to the community garden.  Garden of Union members are expected to place their scraps in bins and cover them with sawdust, a simple procedure that takes no more than two minutes, says the garden’s overseer Claudia Johnson.  For more information, call 718-369-1139.
  • Another community garden in Park Slope, 6/15 Garden (6th Ave. and 15th St.), also has an active compost site where members are able to compost. Compost members are required to go through an orientation, volunteer 10 -12 hours a year, and pay a $15 annual fee for the privilege of having a key that gives them access to the garden year-round.  The garden is reassessing its policy regarding public composting.  For more information, send an e-mail to with compost in the subject line or call 718-768-0679.
  • Green Acres Community Garden in Bed-Stuy (Franklin Ave. and Greene St.) offers the public a $5 compost membership.  Members who help with the process of composting are entitled to take finished compost home.   Members are given keys to the garden, so they can drop off their waste in collection bins at any time.  For more information, call 718-623-2515.
  • Prospect Heights Community Farm (St. Marks Ave. between Vanderbilt and Underhill Aves.) accepts food waste from the public during the garden’s open hours:  Saturday 10:00 a.m.  – 1:00 p.m.; Sunday 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Wednesday 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.; and Friday 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.  People are required to place their food waste in bins, unless, says the farm’s keeper Jon Pope, “they’re dressed to go to a wedding.”  For more information, call 917-613-9472.
  • The Fort Greene Greenmarket in Fort Greene Park (Dekalb Ave. and Washington Park) takes food waste from the public on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon.  For more information, call 718-685-8460.

In Manhattan:

The Lower East Side Ecology Center Garden in the East Village (7th St. between Avenues B and C) accepts residential food waste on Sundays between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

In Queens:

Queens County Farm in Floral Park will accept food scraps at its farm stand open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. through October.

Two Coves Community Garden in Astoria takes food scraps from its members.  The garden is located at the intersection of 8th St., Amsterdam Blvd., and 30th Ave./Main St.  For more information, go to

Two CSAs in Queens — Astoria CSA and Harvest Astoria CSA — accept food scraps from its members, thanks to custom-built tumblers developed by the Western Queens Compost Initiative, an ad-hoc group associated with Two Coves Community Garden.

The Sunnyside Greenmarket recently started accepting food scraps from the public on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

In Staten Island:

There are no public drop-off sites for food scraps on Staten Island, according to Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, which runs the NYC Compost Project in Staten Island.


June 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm Leave a comment

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