From the Field: Digging into NYC’s Compost

October 20th, 2011 by Lily Kelly Leave a reply »

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Food waste being composted.

Last Wednesday, the Coalition for Resource Recovery team got to dig deep into the world of food waste by bringing CoRR members to Wilmington, Delaware, to tour Peninsula Compost, the largest compost facility in the Northeastern U.S. Peninsula receives separated food waste from New York City and other locations to process it into compost. One of the attending members, representing international sandwich and coffee shop Pret A Manger, was particularly keen to visit — all unused kitchen food waste from most of their New York city locations is collected on a daily basis and sent to Peninsula to be turned into rich, fertile compost.

Watching the process at Peninsula was eye-opening. The arriving food waste is received in a warehouse, where it is mixed with wood chips to achieve the right nutrient ratio. The material is then shredded, scooped up by front-loaders, and piled up in long heaps that are covered with a textile membrane and aerated. By using the fabric to cover the piles while the compost decomposes, Peninsula Compost has managed to operate a 28-acre facility in the heart of Wilmington without ever receiving a single odor complaint. When they first planned to open the facility, they also worked with local community leaders to develop a Community Benefit Agreement with the nearby low-income neighborhood.

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Cooper watching over the compost.

One more fun fact that we learned on the tour: Peninsula Compost, like all waste facilities near the ocean, attracts seagulls. They have tried a variety of ways to repel the seagulls, beginning with putting up fake owls that were ignored. They also considered bringing in a small remote-controlled airplane, and even a professional falconer. Eventually they settled on the perfect solution: Cooper the Border Collie! Cooper’s job is to chase the seagulls away when they become too numerous, which he does with great delight. He may well be the happiest dog in the world.

We enjoyed the journey immensely (really!). But it’s good to be back in the office, where planning continues for our Fall Resource Recovery Conference, to be held in conjunction with Global Green USA’s 12th Annual Sustainable Design Awards right here in New York City. Stay tuned!

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