Get Ready to Compost! Brown Bins Arrive

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If all the leaves are brown, and the skies are gray, it must be October in the Rockaways.  The leaves pile up as some of us go into hibernation mode and rest, eat and leave leftovers. The leaves and leftovers gotta go somewhere, right? Well, we’re all in luck, as the NY Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has just the place: The Brown Bin! And it’s coming to a curb near you. With the City’s goal of contributing zero waste to landfills by 2030, DSNY is increasing its efforts to compost and is distributing Brown Bins made for food scraps and yard waste to the local area through the end of October.

More than two million New Yorkers are already utilizing Brown Bins, and now it’s Rockaway's turn, but only if you want to. DSNY is in the process of delivering for free, Brown Bins to residential buildings with one to nine units, with larger apartment buildings needing to request their bins. Collections will start on the week of October 29 on your normal recycling day.

So what goes in these Brown Bins? Organic material, like food scraps, yard waste, leaves, and food-soiled paper like the paper in the bottom of the pizza box. Other examples are Halloween pumpkins, coffee grounds, weeds, pizza crusts, potato peelings, egg shells, tea bags, paper plates and bags, chicken/turkey bones, and even Aunt Hilda’s fruit cake. Just don't put in things like diapers, pet waste, or those plastics bags, that are everywhere.

 All the seasoned composters who use Edgemere Farm to help reduce waste have a head start. For those who are new to this, I can already hear the whispers and complaining, because I’ve been there. It takes a bit of getting used to at first. Just like when NYC started recycling, it may start out as a pain. But once you get the system down, it becomes part of your routine, and you’ll see the benefits. It is only recommended to participate, but there are some benefits to separating organics. With a little planning, and trial and error, you’ll see a reduction in your regular trash, and it will help keep the planet alive a little longer. Many school-aged kids are already doing this in school, so you can refer to your young Captains of Composting for help, or make it their new chore.

I dated a beautiful environmentalist a few years back, and learned the basics. This, along with the DSNY tips, help make it easier than it sounds. She used a grocery bag to collect the waste and kept the bag in the freezer. You can also use a large, depending on the amount of waste, Tupperware container. Sprinkle a little baking soda in to reduce odors, and seal, then keep in the freezer to further reduce odor. Once full, you empty the contents into the Brown Bin. Rinse and repeat. The Brown Bins are latched to prevent raccoons, or out here, seagulls, or maybe a stray cat, from getting their paws or beaks on your scraps. DSNY recommends lining the Brown Bins with clear plastic bags, large paper bags, or any number of commercially available “compost bags” found in many larger grocery stores. You may be able to find them at the local Key Food or Stop & Shop.

Since this is a new way of handling organic waste in the area, DSNY is not going to fine anyone who doesn’t get it right. They understand this is a work in progress. The overall “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” campaign aims to reduce waste going in to our already overburdened landfills. Over time, this reduces the cost of managing the landfills and worsening environmental concerns of large metropolitan cities. The use of composted materials as fertilizer in city parks and gardens, further reduces costs, which reduces chemicals used in most fertilizer, that eventually leeches into our water table, streams, rivers, bays, and oceans. DSNY operates both compost sites and contracts with outside vendors for additional composting. Gardens can even request compost at nyc.gov/getcompost.

Still bamboozled by Brown Bins? Visit the website: nyc.gov/organics. Separating organic waste is easier than you think, better for the planet, and you can lord it over your annoying nephew from California. This is one more way to achieve our dream of cleaner beaches, pristine bays, beautiful waterways, and overall a better world to leave to our children, grandchildren, and even Aunt Hilda!

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