New York City interested in large-scale food scrap recycling

National Geographic discusses plans for food scrap recycling in New York City:

In his State of the City address in February, Bloomberg had called food waste “New York City’s final recycling frontier.” The mayor said, “We bury 1.2 million tons of food waste in landfills every year at a cost of nearly $80 per ton. That waste can be used as fertilizer or converted to energy at a much lower price. That’s good for the environment and for taxpayers.”

The administration says it will soon be looking to pay a local composting plant to process 100,000 tons of food scraps a year, or about 10 percent of the city’s residential food waste. In the Big Apple, only residential refuse is handled directly by the city, since businesses must hire private disposal service providers…

The city says it also intends to hire a company to build a plant that will turn food waste into biogas—methane that can be burned to generate electricity just like natural gas. The food waste program is expected to ramp up over the next few years, starting with volunteers, until it reaches full deployment around 2015 or 2016…

Under the mayor’s new program, participants will get picnic-basket-size containers, which they can fill with everything from used coffee filters to broccoli stalks. Those bins will then be emptied into bigger brown containers at the curb for pickup. Those who live in apartment buildings, as many Manhattanites do, will drop the waste off at centralized bins.

Administration officials told reporters that the city can save $100 million a year composting food waste instead of sending it to landfills, most of which are in other states. Bloomberg has said he expects the program may become mandatory in the coming years, although that will be up to his predecessors, since his term is winding down.

Curbside composting! Read on to see how this has played out in San Francisco which has had mandatory food waste composting for several years.

The green efforts plus the potential cost-savings will interest a lot of people. But, this is also a large infrastructure effort involving getting containers to residents, coordinating pickups and centralized locations, and then finally disposing of the material. I hope we see more about how such a program is implemented and effectively run. And, if the program has such good benefits, why haven’t more cities jumped into this? Perhaps it is just a matter of time. Also, could suburban composting work like this or are there more costs due to lower densities?

Side note: it will be interesting to see the visuals of compost boxes out on New York streets. The contrast between garbage day in New York City versus Chicago and its system of alleys where the garbage is away from the street is striking.

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