Every day, tons of organic waste, such as food scraps and yard waste, are produced in New York City and their disposal is an increasingly difficult problem to solve. The management of organic waste is a crucial issue for New York, not only to reduce the quantity sent to landfill sites, but also to produce compost, a material useful for agriculture and which contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions.
Despite the presence of composting programs in some city districts, the majority of organic waste is still sent to landfills, where it decomposes and releases greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.
However, initiatives exist, including the Zero Waste Academy.
The Zero Waste Academy
From January 21 to February 17, I took classes at the Zero Waste Academy in NYC, the Zero Waste Academy (ZWA).
ZWA is offering a free 9-session virtual educational series to educate city residents about waste management issues and contextualizes New Yorkers’ role in creating a cleaner, healthier city. We studied:
- the history of waste management and current waste systems in New York,
- the social, environmental and economic implications of waste, and the implementation of community and urban solutions.
ZWA is for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the environmental and sustainability issues affecting New York and our lives as New Yorkers. We had 8 virtual modules, the ninth was in person, and allowed us to meet each other and our different instructors.
The next session will take place in 2024. You can subscribe to their newsletter to receive future information.
The Curbside Composting program
I would like to share with you the information I learned during the module on organic waste. It is one of the current workhorses of the city of NY, with the deployment of the Curbside Composting program to all residents of New York City. New York City residents will all have a brown trash can to place organic waste. This program was tested in Queens this fall.
Manhattan residents will receive their composting trash can starting October 7, 2024. But why deploy such a program throughout NYC? Here are some numbers that will answer this question.
The numbers about the USA
The largest sources of organic waste are not farms, manufacturing companies or consumer-facing businesses, but individuals who account for 37% of organic waste. That is a volume of 30M tonnes, equivalent to 158 billion dollars, a huge sustainability issue in the USA.
Food waste takes up 24% of space in U.S. landfills, requiring a large quantity of dumpster rentals, one third of food is wasted and one American in six is hungry.
About New York
Do you have any idea how much organic waste New Yorkers produce per year? 3.9 million tonnes.
- one out of eight New Yorkers are food insecure
- NYC alone spends over $1 billion annually on solid waste management. Food waste is a major concern because it takes up a lot of space. Food waste is organic material, which degrades slowly and releases a greenhouse gas called methane when buried. On the other hand, when this material
organic is composted, it becomes an excellent fertilizer. New York City uses it for its many parks and redistributes it to its residents.
- Composting exists in schools, but is not obligatory. It is at the discretion of the teaching team to implement it.
- New York City’s goal is to reduce organic waste by 50% by 2030.
You will have understood the importance of reducing organic waste. There are also donation organizations that help avoid food waste and thus organic waste: City harvest, Common pantry, Rescuing leftover cuisine, Rethink and Too good to go.