Composting in the City

I throw my garbage into a bag, shove it down a chute, and then it’s all picked up by this huge, clanking truck that sometimes wakes me up in the morning. It just goes away. It’s like magic…or is it?

It’s tough to find exact numbers about NYC garbage, but over 30,000 tons of waste is generated each year by the eight million-plus people who call New York City their home. It’s so much that we can no longer handle it and send around 30% of it to landfills in other areas (upstate New York, New Jersey, and any other state that will accept a bid to take it). This stinks, literally stinks, especially in the heat of the summertime. Even when the garbage bags are picked up, the smell lingers.

There’s no smell more terrible than an NYC sidewalk during a summertime garbage day.

Now imagine a New York City with recycling bins that actually get used on every corner and in every office and apartment building. Picture more people using re-usable water bottles, cloth-diapering their babies, and no one using styrofoam (ever). It may be years before all of this gets put into place, but we’re getting closer and closer every day! One small step to add this summer may be for you to focus on what to do with your food scraps, which end up making some of the worst scents on the sidewalks on garbage day.

Whether you’re in an apartment or house, have a back yard or not, or are interested in composting your own food or passing it on to someone else to do, there are options for you! Since has already made an excellent blog about these options, go ahead and read a little about garbage can composting, Rubbermaid compost bins, Anaerobic composting, commercial bins, and the hungry red wiggler worms here:

I have been researching the last few months about how to compost in our apartment but for now will be carrying my food scraps over to the Forest Hills Greenmarket from 9-12 on Sunday mornings where Build It Green! NYC will collect them. Please go to their website to see their collection calendar and everything else here: and take a look at what they collect!

If you haven’t checked out the Forest Hills Greenmarket yet, hop on down to the Queens Blvd post office this Sunday between 8am and 3pm!

From their site, here’s a go-to list for what to compost and what not to bring, as well as some handy tips!

Please DO bring:

  • fruit scraps (please freeze these for one day before drop off)
  • vegetable scraps
  • coffee grounds
  • tea bags
  • dry grains
  • fresh leaves and green plants prunings and hedge trimmings
  • grass clippings
  • weeds
  • flower bouquets
  • seaweed
  • feathers
  • horse manure
  • guinea pig or hamster droppings
  • brewery waste (hops and wet grains)
  • dry leaves
  • nut
  • shells
  • dead plants
  • dried flowers
  • corn cobs
  • straw and hay
  • bark
  • wood
  • chips and sawdust
  • food-soiled paper towels and napkins
  • shredded paper
  • newspaper
  • corrugated cardboard
  • old potting soil
  • egg shells (but NO eggs)

Please DO NOT bring:

  • meat and fish scraps
  • dairy products
  • fats, oils, and grease
  • dog and cat waste
  • invasive weeds
  • weeds with seeds
  • diseased plants
  • non-organic materials (plastic, metal, glass, etc.)

A few requests and tips for Build It Green’s composters:

  • Please DO NOT leave your waste at a drop-off site if no one is there. They can only accept compost during specified hours.
  • Please roughly chop organic materials. The smaller the particle size, the more surface area there is — making more room for microorganisms to munch. This will help speed up the decomposition process.
  • Worried about where to keep your scraps in your home? Put them in the freezer! A great tip is to store food scraps in yogurt containers in the freezer. This method will kill fruit fly eggs on fruit peels and keep your kitchen clean and organized. (You do not need to thaw the scraps before you bring them to us.)
  • Containers: Use whatever container works best for you! Reusable plastic or metal containers, such as small buckets and yogurt containers are highly recommended. We also love getting food scraps in paper bags. The bag is a “brown,” carbon-rich material, which (when shredded) is a great complement to your food scraps, which are usually nitrogen-rich “greens.

If you have any questions about how you can recycle, upcycle, and re-use more, feel free to contact me! And good luck with your composting or composting drop-offs! Your hard work, habits, and choices make all the difference.


Composting: It’s not just for leaf piles anymore.



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