That’s What I’m Talking About…

According to this NY Times article, Seattle is leading the nation when it comes to recycling. It is among a growing number of cities, particularly on the West Coast, who do curbside collection of food scraps mixed with yard waste; this mixture is delivered to a high-tech composting facility, Cedar Grove Organics, and two months later the results will be sold at garden supply stores by the bag.

“This is the cool side of trash,” Cedar Grove’s founder, Steve Banchero, said of the process, which is on recycling’s cutting edge.

The company, the major composter in this area, will soon have much more trash coming its way because Seattle is making food waste yet another mandatory recycling ingredient in its already long list.

“The food-waste issue is the new frontier for recycling advocates,” said Kate Krebs, the executive director of the National Recycling Coalition. “It’s the next big chunk.”

Seattle now recycles 44 percent of its trash, compared with the national average of around 30 percent, which makes it a major player in big-city waste recovery. Its goal, city waste management officials said, is to reach 60 percent by 2012 and 72 percent by 2025.

Obviously, a key element for the success of recycling programs is the creation and nurturing of markets for recycled materials:

Waste paper is now commanding about $90 a ton throughout the United States, which makes it possible to turn a profit by loading it onto ships instead of dumping it into landfills.

Not to sell it “would be like burying money,” said Chaz Miller of the Environmental Industry Associations, which represents the private waste service industry. Because of that, collecting paper for recycling is at an all-time high.

God forbid anyone should accuse us New Yorkers of “burying money”… but according to my source at the Department of Sanitation, New York City is only recycling a fraction of the paper we could be. Here are the “mixed paper” items that New Yorkers can recycle:

  • white, colored, and glossy paper (staples OK)
  • mail and envelopes (window envelopes OK)
  • wrapping paper (remove ribbon and tape)
  • smooth cardboard (food boxes — remove inside & outside plastic wrappers — shoe boxes, tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cardboard from product packaging)
  • paper bags
  • cardboard egg cartons and trays
  • newspapers, magazines, and catalogs
  • phone books, softcover books (paperbacks, comic books, etc.; no spiral bindings)
  • corrugated cardboard (flattened boxes)

But when will WE be able to recycle OUR food scraps? I’m getting really tired of the West Coast kicking our a** when it comes to sustainability!

8 Responses to “ That’s What I’m Talking About… ”

  1. What about Tropicana OJ cartons?

  2. believe it or not, waxed paper cartons (milk, juice, etc.) go with the Metal/Glass/Plastic.

    one of those arcane NYC recycling rules that only a long belabored stare at the recycling posters will reveal. we do it, so you don’t have to! 😉

  3. Waxed paper products are actually very difficult to recycle and usually end getting incinerated or landfilled.

    Most plastics, with a few exceptions, are very difficult to recycle into high quality products, and end up being “downcycled”, or reborn as un-recyclable products like blister packs, polar fleece and carpeting. as most products have not been explicitly designed with their end of life in mind.

    Refillable containers are the way to go. It is criminal that glass containers are crushed instead of refilled.

    Municipal composting is great but you can also do it at home, it just takes a bit more work.

    Sorry for the rant.

  4. though it does rain on the parade of that “green” glow one gets from being a conscientious recycler, this is a good discussion to have. recycling is last on the list (Reduce Reuse Recycle) for a reason… the benefits are sadly minimal when compared with using refillable containers, as you rightly suggest.

    drop by for a rant anytime!

    as for composting at home, it is not easy to do in a small apartment, but i am currently doing a trial run of bokashi composting and will post my findings soon.

  5. Just like to drop a note-great blog. Check out if you can my blog note this October regarding the free compost giveaways. Unfortunately the Brooklyn/Queens giveaway has been shut down. Also, Dave Hurd at the CENYC is working hard to increase recycling numbers. Apparently it is harder than it seems, but he is having some success. Keep up the good blogging

  6. They used to have food-scraps recycling nearly 20 years ago in parts of Park Slope. I’m surprised it hasn’t spread to your nabe.

  7. Hi Jonathan, thanks for stopping by!

    I think what you’re talking about is community composting; they do it at several community gardens in the Slope and elsewhere. The problem is that it requires a composting infrastructure, which someone must set up and maintain, and public outdoor space. As mentioned elsewhere on this site, Flatbush is sorely lacking in public space for these sorts of projects (although there are rumors of a community garden on the way… stay tuned here for details!).

    But what i’m REALLY referring to here is at the municipal level: Department of Sanitation curbside pickup of compostable food scraps. These systems exist in San Francisco, Berkeley, Seattle, and probably other places I’m not aware of. But I can pretty confidently say that NYC has never had anything resembling such a system. I’m also confident that we will have to adopt one in the future, as carting this stuff out of state is just too expensive.

  8. And thanks to Frank as well, for both the kind words and the sad news about the compost shutdown. Guess we’ll have to get serious about making our compost locally now!

    Check out Frank’s blog on gardening in NYC:

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