Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expanding food composting in New York City. The expected benefits are considerable, including a reduction in the amount of trash – food is approximately one third of all waste. The new program should eliminate the need to transport about a quarter of today’s waste to city landfills.
A robust food composting program provides many other benefits. For instance, food composting reduces or eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers. Used as fertilizer, compost promotes higher crop yields and reconstitutes the soil. Increased composting revitalizes forests and ecologically delicate habitats, and reduces the methane accumulation associated with landfills.
The most obvious applications for composting include roof farms, which are spreading across New York City. In addition, high quality compost can be sold to enhance the productivity of local growers. The City intends to have one or more composting plants online in the near future.
Composting has the potential to become a thriving cottage industry for people who are willing to do the research and cultivate the soil with reconstituted food waste.
Decomposition of waste requires the proper balance between greens like leaves, which are nitrogen-rich, and brown matter like wood chips, which is carbon-rich. The right amounts of water and oxygen are also necessary to aerate the pile so that decomposition proceeds expeditiously.
Initially, composting should be easier for owners of one- to three-family houses. Over time, the City will convert the program from a voluntary one to a mandatory requirement. Ultimately, the composting effort may evolve into an energy source for city dwellers.
Mayor Bloomberg, whose third and final term in office ends this year, envisions the program becoming a full-scale effort over the next four years. Residents will receive special bins to recycle food wastes into usable compost. Once the implementation details are ironed out, consideration will be given to making the undertaking a mandatory one for city residents.