Food Scrap Recycling Projects Expanding in the Rivertowns

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by Robert Kimmel – 

Tossing food scraps into a garbage pail whose contents end up in a municipal landfill or incinerator will become a vanishing practice in the rivertowns if community environmental groups fully succeed in their latest ecological pursuit.

Food waste decaying in landfills produces methane gas which traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming and climate change. As a greenhouse gas, methane is twenty times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat.

Prompted by their eco-friendly local organizations, the villages of Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow are now engaged in programs offering drop-off points to which residents can bring their collected food scraps. From those locations, the food scraps are carted to an upstate composting facility. They are reprocessed there into nutrient-rich compost.

The Town of Greenburgh took the early initiative in January 2018, by partnering with the Greenburgh Nature Center to set up a residential food scrap recycling program, the largest in Westchester County. The town established a drop-off site for all town residents at the Anthony F. Veteran Park in Hartsdale.

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner called it “a first step that could reduce the amount of garbage that we get rid of.” He now has plans for a second, much bigger step. The town is expecting a $250,000 grant from the state to purchase two trucks so Greenburgh could begin curbside pick-up of food scraps throughout the town beginning in 2020.

“There is a good chance we will be able to pick up curbside next year,” Feiner said. “It would provide an opportunity for the town to work cooperatively with the villages. We have to work out an agreement with the villages to see if they like the concept.”

The Tarrytown Environmental Advisory Council (TEAC) was successful late last year in having its village establish a food scrap drop-off project. Village Administrator Richard Slingerland described it as “a good thing for our community to help reduce greenhouse gas.” The village set up a drop-off location with multiple containers adjacent to Pierson Park between its Recreation Center and the Senior Center.

“We are happy to see over half a ton of food scraps being dropped off each week at the village’s current collection point,” TEAC co-chairs Rachel Tieger and Dean Gallea reported last month. Seven dumpsters there each hold about 200 pounds of scraps, the discarded trimmings, leftover and spoiled or expired food, Gallea related.

Food scrap collection kits are being sold by the village to make the procedure more convenient for residents. Each includes a small countertop bin, a roll of 25 compostable bags and a larger, lockable outdoor transporter bin in which to store the collected scraps and bring them to the collection point. The kits are available at their cost, $23, at Village Hall, the Recreation Center and at Warner Library. Only compostable bags are suitable for the scrap deposits, and additional rolls of those bags are available at the Recreation Center for $2.

Encouraged by its Environmental Advisory Council (SHEAC), Sleepy Hollow has partnered with Tarrytown, signing an Inter-Municipal Agreement at the end of March, to participate with that village’s existing Food Scrap Drop-Off Program. The two villages will share the cost of a one-year contract with Suburban Carting to collect the scraps from the Tarrytown location and take them to the composting facility, according to SHEAC’s Co-Chair, Clair Davis. Drop-off kits are also available at Sleepy Hollow Village Hall.

“Community reaction thus far has been very favorable among those who are aware of the program, and greater participation is anticipated as the word gets out more widely,” Davis said. She added that Sleepy Hollow’s participation is being promoted with posters and flyers which are also being translated into Spanish to reach the village’s Hispanic population. “It is important to note that the new program will accept many more items than are usable in a backyard plot,” Davis said.   (See adjoining list.)

TEAC’s Gallea anticipated the possible relocation of Tarrytown’s drop-off site to a better setting, which could come “in the near future to accommodate this expanding program. In the longer term, the Greenburgh planned curbside pick-up will greatly increase participation,” Gallea noted.

“There are no plans to set up a separate drop-off point within Sleepy Hollow as the program is just getting started here,” SHEAC’s Davis stated. “However, with the Town of Greenburgh proposing the curbside pick-up program in 2020, SHEAC is considering the possibility of approaching the Mt. Pleasant Town Board to see if they might consider a similar program.”

Irvington’s all volunteer Green Policy Task Force worked with its village to start a food scrap recycling program this past May. Ann Holmes, representing the Task Force, called it, “a very exciting time, because there is a big shifting of consciousness as well as behavior, and this is going to bring a lot of cost savings as well as a valuable resource for our region.”

Residents in Irvington are being asked to bring their collected food scraps to the Farmer’s Market at the back lot of the Main Street School. Holmes noted that the Farmer’s Market does not provide residents with a weekday drop-off place, as it is open only on Sundays during the summer and fall.

Greenburgh’s drop-off location in Veteran Park could also be used by Irvington residents, Holmes suggested. The town’s projected curbside pick-up will also engage more residents, as she sees it. Regardless, Holmes said the Task Force expects participation to grow, and that the project also, “raises the consciousness that so much food is wasted, some 40% of which is produced never makes it to a person, animal or compost.”

Food scrap recycling in Dobbs Ferry got started at the end of May, with residents asked to bring their collected leftovers to the Dobbs Ferry DPW location at 1 Stanley Avenue. The facility is open all year, Monday thru Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and on weekends from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. from April until November.

Kits similar to those sold in the other villages are also available at the village’s DPW garage office for $20, although they are not required, as long as compostable bags are used to deposit scraps. Unbagged scraps are generally accepted as well.

Dobbs Ferry got its food scrap drop-off project underway with the assistance of the Village’s Sustainability Task Force. Jennifer Murphy is recognized by members of the Task Force as having “driven this initiative.” Murphy described the response to the recycling project as “overwhelmingly positive,” adding that the collection kits initially sold out. She said the containers at the drop-off location “were brimming with waste,” and she anticipated the participation will increase as more residents become aware of the effort.

“The first year is critical for us,” Murphy stated, adding that “increased awareness will bring more people to adhere to Greenburgh’s curbside pick-up when it comes.” As for Greenburgh’s plans, Feiner has stated, “If the county could create a composite facility for all collections, it would make it all much more possible. The food scraps would not have to be carted out of the county.”

Westchester County purchased a self-contained composting vessel in 2015 for use at its Household Material Recovery Facility in Valhalla as a pilot project. It was apparently limited to processing smaller quantities of food scraps. The county’s Department of Environmental Facilities also began a food Waste Study early this year “to analyze the county’s waste stream and determine how much food waste can potentially be diverted from both the residential and commercial waste streams.”

Other municipalities in the county have also initiated food scrap recycling programs, including Scarsdale, the first to start one, and it now utilizes curbside pick-up. (For a list of food scrap items, visit www.thehudsonindependent.com.)

Food Scrap Drop-Off Items

Accepted Items
ALL food waste, including:
• Fruits and Vegetables (remove stickers, rubber bands, twist ties)
• Meat and Poultry (bones ok)
• Fish and Shellfish (shells ok)
• Dairy Products
• Bread and Pasta
• Rice and Grains
• Egg Shells
• Chips and Snacks
• Nuts and Seeds
• Leftover, Spoiled and Expired Food (cooked ok)

Other Items
(If in doubt, ask before contaminating your food scrap recyclables):
• Coffee Grounds (paper filters ok)
• Tea Bags (no staples)
• Paper Towels and Napkins
• Cut flowers (not landscaping waste)
• Compostable Bags

Items Not Accepted

It is important not to include the following items, as they will contaminate your food scrap recyclables:
• Plastic Bags
• Baby/Hand Wipes
• Diapers
• Glass, Metal or Plastic
• Pet Waste or Kitty Litter
• Styrofoam
• Yard Waste

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