New York City is on a mission to define their ‘Final Frontier’ in recycling. The plan is looking to mandate residential composting for all food waste. Citizens will be required to separate their food scraps ranging from wilting romaine to week-old pizza, store it in their homes until picked up before it is transported to a large-scale composting facility many miles away. If citizens fail to comply, they will be slapped with a fine. Will the fear of penalty get New Yorkers to follow the rules? Is this the best solution?
This do-or-die situation was created for good intentions but good intentions are not enough to be successful. Composting may not be the only answer. Composting is in no way the enemy and has been successful in small-scale cases, but when composting increases in size, so do the problems associated with it.
One of the many issues with composting exists in its reliance on transportation. In order to get the compost from one location to the next, it has to travel on multiple trucks to remote composting facilities creating additional unnecessary air pollution. This would not be an issue if composting facilities were right down the street, but in reality, these stations are most frequently located hundreds of miles away from civilization. So, the wilting romaine or uneaten pizza will be transported more than 200 miles roundtrip for its final frontier. New York City is hoping to compost 100,000 tons of food scraps a year – almost the same distance Captain Kirk traveled in his final voyage.
Many question as to why Manhattan’s closest compost facility is so far away. Simply put, composting can generate a lot of smells, and no one wants that problem in their backyard. Although superficial, it is nearly impossible to convince NYC residents that large amounts of odor-releasing waste will improve their quality of life.
There is also the issue of what to do with it all. Composting facilities do not represent the end of the cycle. They produce – you guessed it – compost. And that compost has to go somewhere, as it cannot just sit and pile up at the facilities. Therefore, New York has to prepare for a healthy end market for this product. In order to do so, not only do they have to the pay for the extensive, yearlong process of separating, turning, and tilling the food waste, but now they have to exert the energy to actually prepare it for sale.
But the world can only take so much compost. Not everyone is looking to grow organic gardens. When composting exists on a large scale, the amount of compost in circulation will increase drastically, meaning a greater supply. And as high school economics taught us, when supply goes up, demand plummets. This makes for a major economic plight for the NYC government and will result in nothing but more and more unused, unsold compost.
The entire process of composting is a very long and expensive one that requires a lot of time and attention. Not only does it mean paying for the land and workers, but there are also additional costs for maintenance of trucks, re-packaging the compost for sale, etc. If this process isn’t completed properly, someone will have to pay.
Another challenge is contamination which runs rampant in composting trucks, as separation by individual residents will not always be performed properly. If plastic water bottles are discovered in a truck of food waste, then the entire load has to be driven back to a landfill and rid of there. This means more money, more time, and more resources that the city doesn’t have.
New Yorkers bury 1.2 million tons of food waste in landfills each year, and although we completely agree that that this volume needs to be diverted from landfills, but the best solution may just be the combination of a few solutions not just one. BioHitech America has proven that alternate technology exists that is much more beneficial economically, socially, and environmentally. The Eco-Safe Digester is able to divert as much, if not more food waste from landfills and is able to do it with less complications.
We hope a combination of on-site and off-site solutions are offered to make NYC’s “final frotier” as successful of a voyage as it was for Spock and McCoy.