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Brown is the New Green

Residents of New York co-ops and condos have been recycling the usual suspects for years – glass and plastic, paper and cardboard. Now comes the next step: recycling organic waste.

It may surprise you to know that one-third of the city’s residential waste is organic matter – coffee grounds, eggshells, yard waste, and such – and the vast majority of it gets hauled away to landfills. It may also come as a surprise that almost one million New Yorkers in some 300,000 households now have access to curbside organic waste collection – and those numbers are about to soar.

“Our mandate is to expand the program so that every New Yorker will have access to organics recycling by the end of 2018,” says Louise Bruce, the senior program manager of NYC Organics, which runs a growing network of curbside pickups and drop-off sites. It’s part of the city’s ambitious plan to eliminate all shipments to landfills by 2030.

Residents in participating buildings place their organic waste in rodent-proof bins with latching lids, which are picked up Department of Sanitation (DOS) trucks and delivered to the city’s composting facility on Staten Island or to private vendors. The DOS is working on ways to get finished compost into the hands of community gardeners, street-tree stewards, and urban farmers.

“What’s really amazing is what a resource compost is,” Bruce says. “It’s more than a fertilizer. It adds life to the soil and reduces erosion by holding water in the soil. An apple core is not garbage. It’s a packet of nutrients.”

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