Food Waste Composting Is Back in Forest Hills
Starting on May 16, 2021
Op Ed by Dan Miner, Co-Chair, Forest Hills Green Team and Aleda Gagarin, New York City Council Candidate District 29
One of the best ways for New Yorkers to significantly lower their greenhouse gas emissions is by separating their food waste, and handing it off to NYC’s organics collection program, also known as composting. This has included curbside pickup in many parts of the City, and drop-off locations in other areas, all of which were temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.
The Mayor recently announced that curbside food and yard waste collection will be restarting. Since those services will not be starting in our community in the near future, the Forest Hills Green Team, in conjunction with the Queens Botanical Gardens and Friends of MacDonald Park will be setting up a food waste drop off site at MacDonald Park, beginning on Sunday, May 16.
One third of NYC’s waste stream is made up of organic waste, much of it from food scraps and leftovers. When food waste isn’t separated from regular garbage, it’s often sent to be burned in incinerators or buried in landfills, where it decomposes in the absence of oxygen and produces the greenhouse gas methane, which is up to 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of human related methane emissions in the US, and produced about 15% of US emissions in 2018.
Landfills around the country are filling up, and becoming more costly for cities to use for their waste. To meet the City’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, we will need to prioritize composting our organic waste. NYC has had the largest curbside organics recycling program in the world, serving 3.3 million people, supplemented by many food scraps drop off sites throughout the city.
To fund emergency responses to the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio cut $28 million for food waste collection and composting from the Department of Sanitation’s FY 2021 budget, which led to the suspension of many related programs in spring of 2020. The Mayor recently announced that curbside organic collection will be starting back up in communities where it was offered prior to the pandemic, but that service wasn’t available in Forest Hills. All we had available was a weekly food waste drop off site at the MacDonald Park greenmarket on Sundays, and the volunteer run Compost Collective on Yellowstone Boulevard and Kessel Street on Saturdays.
Ever since that service was suspended, residents were asked to discard food scraps and yard waste with their trash, which has resulted in a tremendous loss of momentum for these vital programs. Community outreach will have to be redoubled before their reintroduction. We urge the Mayor and City Council to restore funding to composting and recycling programs as soon as possible, and to invest in community education about the many benefits of composting.
Fortunately, another option will soon be available. Queens Botanical Garden is partnering with volunteers from Forest Hills Green Team and Friends of MacDonald Park , who will staff a Sunday food waste drop-off collection site at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills, adjacent to the Greenmarket. Residents will be able to come by and drop off their food scraps with FHGT volunteers between the hours of 10 AM and 1 PM. QBG will pick up their containers and compost the food waste at their main facility. The finished compost will be returned to the community for distribution at the site.
QBG is seeking other organizations willing to host food waste drop off locations in their community, perhaps where sites have previously been co-located, at some of the 50+ Greenmarkets operated by GrowNYC. We encourage other local groups to partner in these important efforts towards a sustainable future, and look forward to seeing our neighbors at our new composting site.
Members of Forest Hills Green Team, a volunteer initiative started in 2018, have revitalized and helped start gardens at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School and Forest Hills High School, and have developed a community beautification project at the LIRR overpass on Yellowstone Boulevard. FHGT has organized events and conducted advocacy about environmental issues and climate change response. This year, FHGT interviewed candidates for the 29th District City Council primary this June, following the new format of ranked choice voting, resulting in endorsements of Aleda Gagarin as our first choice candidate, Lynn Shulman second, and Evan Boccardi third, although he has since withdrawn from the race and, along with Sheila Shapiro, will be coordinating this compost site. To volunteer with FHGT to assist in the compost project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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