With the installation of ten compost bins throughout Lower Manhattan, the Downtown Alliance, in partnership with the City’s Department of Sanitation and Brookfield Properties, has made it easier for Downtown residents to live more responsibly. The ten bins accept all forms of organic waste, including all food scraps (even meat and dairy), food-soiled paper, and house plants.
The contents of each bin are periodically collected by the Department of Sanitation, which ferries them to large-scale composting sites. Once treated and processed, the decomposed waste (which makes a nutrient-rich fertilizer) is returned to City parks and gardens. A companion program also converts some of this organic trash, using anaerobic digestion, into renewable energy, which replaces fossil fuels in generating heat and electricity.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food scraps account for nearly a quarter of curbside waste in America. When deposited in landfills, this trash generates significant amounts of methane, a pollutant that surpasses carbon dioxide in its prodigious greenhouse effect. The Department of Sanitation (the largest municipal waste agency in the world) estimates that as much of a third of the garbage it picks up may be compostable.
“Our goal is for this pilot program to grow and divert more food waste from our landfills,” says Alliance president Jessica Lappin. “We hope to change people’s behavior. The City has a zero-waste goal and public composting is the next frontier. We’re calling on all our Downtown neighbors to help us prove that New Yorkers can embrace change and do our part to save the planet.”
The compost bins (designed by emz, an environmental technology company) are smartphone-enabled, allowing users to unlock specific receptacles through a Bluetooth connection. While the City currently hosts more than 100 community composting sites, these are available for drop-off only on specific days and hours. The Alliance program is the first in the nation to allow access any time of day or night, using a free app, eGate Digi. Food scraps and other compostable material are easily collected in a bag in an individual’s freezer, then brought to the closest bin.
The new compost bins have been installed at the following locations:
• Zuccotti Park (Southwest corner of Broadway and Liberty Street)
• One New York Plaza (corner of Broad and Water Streets)
• Platt and Gold Streets (Southeast corner)
• Maiden Lane and Pearl Street (Northwest corner)
• Cedar and William Streets (Northeast corner)
• Wall and Pearl Streets (Southwest corner)
• Rector and Washington Streets (Southeast corner)
• John and William Streets (Northwest corner)
• Bowling Green (inside the North entrance)
• Bowling Green (inside the South entrance)
This program expands and extends the Alliance’s use of technology to handle trash. In 2012, the organization launched a pilot program that put garbage and recycling bins (which that doubled as solar-powered compactors) onto local streets. There are now more than 150 of these Big Belly units throughout Lower Manhattan, collecting many hundreds of tons of refuse each year.
When it’s not conserving local ecology, the mission of the Downtown Alliance is to enhance Lower Manhattan for businesses, residents and visitors. In furtherance of these goals, the Alliance not only operates the local Business Improvement District (serving an area roughly from City Hall to the Battery, between the East River and West Street), but also provides local security and trash pickup, as well as a network of free WiFi spots. The Alliance and its sister organization, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, also produce research, information, and advocacy designed to brand Lower Manhattan as a global model of a 21st century central business district.