New York City Expands its School Composting Program

June 26, 2014

triangle land conservancy compost

There’s an old saying, “It’s so easy a child could do it.” In one New York City school system, that applies to composting as well.

The program is only two years old, says Al Baker in a New York Times article, but has entered 230 school buildings in districts in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. This number is expected double by the fall and eventually reach all 1,300 school buildings in New York City. “[T]he uneaten and half-eaten leftovers are sent to a compost heap at a former Staten Island landfill or to upstate New York or Delaware,” Baker writes, “where the slop is churned into nutrient-enriched dirt that farmers or landscape architects can buy.” In addition to reducing school waste, the program has the opportunity to raise revenue for cash-strapped districts. By selling the compost, the city saves $10-$50 per ton of waste.

The amount of compostable materials is impressive. The weight totaled 1,400 tons from September to March, and this number will only continue to grow as more schools become involved in the program. While Baker points out that it is a little “depressing” that school children waste so much of their nutritionally rich foods, at least it is saved from the landfill.

Is composting difficult for children? The short answer is yes. When students throw their food into incorrect bins “a ‘green team’ of students – wearing latex gloves or holding plastic talons – picked out the wayward junk.” Yet, children are adaptable, and many have noted “that the younger children seemed to get it right more often than the older ones.”

Heightened composting efforts have expanded to the Triangle as well. In 2010, CompostNow was founded to reduce waste and encourage compost, and has kept 200,000 pounds from ending up in landfill sites. Duke Campus Farms encourages gardeners to compost food and yard waste and composts manure and leaves in order to enhance their own community gardens.

Want to learn more about composting in your own home or garden? The North Carolina Composting Council in Raleigh provides composting courses for professionals, farmers, and others who want to hone their composting skills.

Find a TLC Nature Preserve Near You