Waste Not, Want Not

Friday, April 17, 2009

Christine Datz-Romero, executive director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center where she runs the Manhattan Compost Project, talks about urban composting and what you need to know to get started. Plus, Kendall Christiansen, principal at the consulting firm Gaia Strategies and senior consultant on environmental affairs for the Insinkerator, talks about the environmental benefits of the Insinkerator, a food waste disposer.


Kendall Christiansen and Christine Datz-Romero

Comments [25]

Barbara Conover from Montclair NJ

"composting" is an aerobic bacterial process that is different from "rotting" and takes at minimum about 3 cubic feet to work: thus the size of those backyard bins. The little "in-kitchen" Japanese "compost-like" bins are using a different type of biological digestion, so that's why they need electricity. Worm-bins are another similar process: using worms instead of the compost bacteria; ("Worms Eat My Garbage" is a great comprehensive guide). There's tons of good info on the internet on all these options. "Gardener's Supply" is a good resource for supplies if you don't have access to other. I disagree that a garbage disposal is anything like composting: all biosolids (sludge) get mixed together; it's better than the garbage truck: that's all.

Apr. 20 2009 05:04 PM
rebecca tuffey from astoria

i'm adding this pretty late in the day, but wanted to give voice to how easy composting can be...especially when you have a community garden in your neighborhood that composts on-site. i am a member of the two coves community garden in astoria. many of our members do vermiculture in their homes; even more carry scraps to the garden to dump in compost bins. i sometimes bury scraps directly into my garden!

on a less positive note, our garden is in danger. it would be great if brian and team could profile our situation. we're in danger of being displaced in favor of a park! there are seven parks within walking distance of the garden. none of which you can compost in! community gardens invite people to share space and sweat and creativity. something this special and unique cannot be replaced by a park, esp. when the obamas are offering the model of gardening as a timely way to live healthy and smart. we currently have 200+ gardeners and offer monthly events for our neighborhood.

help keep two coves community garden alive and growing in nyc!!

rebecca tuffey 718-274-7452

Apr. 18 2009 01:22 AM
Buffy from Manhattan

Awesome show. Check out the website to read more about what NYC is doing to promote composting in every borough and learn more about composting.

There is also composting information at

Apr. 17 2009 06:46 PM
Caroline from Manhattan

Worm composting in a tiny apartment is EASY! It doesn't smell and neither does your regular garbage because you're not throwing food scraps into it! Lower East Side Ecology Center AND all the botanical gardens in the city run compost projects. Go to a workshop at the one closest to you and get a worm bin and learn how. It is awesome.

Apr. 17 2009 03:19 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Um, & why would you need to use electricity to compost?? Seems like a waste of energy.

Apr. 17 2009 11:55 AM
Laura from Staten Island

Thanks Kate! I will try that.

Apr. 17 2009 11:02 AM
claire corey from brooklyn

I purchased a small in-home composter through Gardeners Supply. It plugs into my electricity and rotates itself and deposits the compost in a bin below. It is great and I am able to compost all of my kitchen scraps without smell. All composted material can be dumped in a park or in any green space as it is ready soil.

Apr. 17 2009 11:02 AM
Naa Koshie from Bed-Stuy Brooklyn

We just started a worm bin this year. It's awesome and requires minimal effort. I definitely recommend this option to others who are curious about it.

Apr. 17 2009 11:01 AM
Kristen Phillips from Brooklyn

I've seen a small ceramic "trap" for fruit flies, sold in Gardener's Supply catalogs. I don't know if they work, but may be worth trying.

Apr. 17 2009 11:01 AM

Laura--I got fruit flies for a while, until I stopped including fruit. No more flies.

Apr. 17 2009 11:00 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I keep food scraps on a shelf in my fridge in chip bags & take them to a community garden in my neighborhood that has a composting program (which I'm happy to say I helped them start). Since their program isn't year-round, though, in the winter I take the compost to the Union Square Greenmarket. I haven't gone the worm route & probably won't.

Kitchen composters, with or without worms, are available through companies like Gaiam.

Apr. 17 2009 10:59 AM
claire corey from brooklyn

I purchased from Gardeners Supply a small in house composter that plugs into my electric socket. It rotates and is working great for composting my kitchen scraps. It is not that large and the compost can be dumped in a park as it is ready soil.

Apr. 17 2009 10:58 AM
the truth from BKNY

Everyone should do this. Very beneficial to the earth and environment.

Apr. 17 2009 10:58 AM
hjs from 11211

i just take it to union square once a
week - no problems

Apr. 17 2009 10:58 AM
Laura from Staten Island

I have a worm box and it's working great. However, we seem to be also breeding fruit flies. Is there a way to get rid of the flies with out hurting the worms?

Apr. 17 2009 10:58 AM
Kristen Phillips from Brooklyn

P.S. I compost at a community garden in my neighborhood. I feel fortunate to be able to do so.

Apr. 17 2009 10:57 AM
Tim from NJ


What about the additional water use required for sink grinders?

People need to consider the energy use required for freezing compost and fossil fuel use if they transport it somewhere else.

Apr. 17 2009 10:57 AM
Carolyn from Brooklyn Heights

I freeze my compost and bring it to Union Square every Saturday. It's amazing how little trash I have now that we compost. It's clean and easy. Also took the wormbin workshop and it was fascinating and fun.

Apr. 17 2009 10:56 AM

Worm composting is pretty easy! I save scraps in the freezer and feed them/check on it every couple of weeks.

Apr. 17 2009 10:56 AM
Kristen Phillips from Brooklyn

I applaud the efforts of your guests to move NYC along the "greener" path that is necessary to our future in this city, in the world. But I am slightly depressed by the discussion... I have several colleagues from Europe and they tell me of municipal recycling and composting programs in place there since the 1970's. WHY are we so far behind? Why is their still so much discussion and disagreement and not more widespread action? Why should we have to be creative independents and not have a city-wide program to do something that is GOOD for our world?

Apr. 17 2009 10:56 AM

I've been composting for the 6 years I've had a house in NJ.
I love the smell of the soil I get out of my compost. It's full of worms and other creatures. Everytime I transplant something in my yard I mix half of the existing dirt w/ the compost.
I have one grocery bag of trash a week.

I also shred the leaves on my property for mulch. I mix some leaves in with the compost.

Apr. 17 2009 10:56 AM
Beth from NY

I've been composting in Manhattan for something like 15 years, thanks to the Lower East Side Ecology Center. I keep a sturdy plastic container (available at 99 cents stores) in my refrigerator and I bring it to the garden on East 7th Street on Sundays. Some of my friends use their freezer, rather than the fridge. It's easy, and it doesn't smell or attract roaches. As a result of composting (and being extremely conscious of what I buy), I only take out one small bag of trash about 1x a week. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be an urban composter.

Apr. 17 2009 10:51 AM
Mike in Brooklyn from Brooklyn

Are there any proposals for the city to begin curbside compost pickup? Several cities, including Seattle, already have such programs.

Apr. 17 2009 10:51 AM
niina from Brooklyn, NY

I have a small compost bin in my apartment, and it doesn't smell. Coffee grounds act as a deodorizer, and I add newspaper strips and aerate it regularly to maintain it. I don't put any fats or animal products (except clean eggshells) into it -- that would stink.

Extra compostables I take to the LESEC compost drop-off at Union Square.

Apr. 17 2009 10:49 AM
Sophie from Manhattan

I read that using sink garbage disposals is not environmentally friendly because it takes a lot of water to separate out the waste from the water at the end. Is that true?

Apr. 17 2009 10:48 AM

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