October 27, 2010

Western Queens Compost Initiative

Ask any organic farmer, and they will tell you that it's all about the fertilizer. The crops depend entirely on the fertilizer for the nutrients that will help produce healthy and delicious food. In the organic farming world, the fertilizer often comes from an on-site compost system that breaks down all of the farm's organic waste through aerobic
decomposition into a healthy, nutrient-rich fertilizer.

The process of composting is quite simple and is practiced on many scales. However, in a dense urban environment, individuals, farms, and industrial organizations may not have the space or facilities to compost at the scale required by their operation. It is important that networks develop alongside the urban food movement in order to ease the difficulties of farming in cities that have little infrastructure for food production and to facilitate collaboration between like minded organizations.
One of WQCI's many community drop-off spots

Western Queens Compost Initiative formed in 2010 as a response to issues raised at the 2009 Food and Climate Summit in New York City, and it is a great example of a community-organized infrastructure that provides a service the city does not offer. Founded by five master composters living in Queens, NY, the Western Queens Compost Initiative (WQCI) is a dynamic partnership of CSAs, gardeners, and conscientious citizens, providing leadership, service, and education in composting. The WQCI already coordinates the collection of food waste from over a dozen organizations, including local farms, bike tours, green markets, CSAs, and community gardens. Their compost is processed at a local GreenThumb facility and is distributed for use by community gardeners and street trees.

WQCI offers workshop on DIY compost-bin construction

The simple beauty of composting is that it requires input - organic 'waste' - to produce output - nutrient-rich fertilizer. The process converts waste material (that would ordinarily be shipped to a landfill) into a valuable resource. Landfills that contain food waste are a growing danger to our ecosystems. Offgassing of methane generated by large quantities of decaying organic waste is a definite factor of global warming as well as an overal health risk. As a greenhouse gas, methane is up to 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and it is also a serious danger to those who live near the landfill.

Environmental noise and dust are generated from vehicles accessing landfills as well as from working operations at the facility. Trucking food waste out of cities has a negative effect on the air quality and in general is an added stress on our cities' overloaded infrastructural systems. New York City ships a majority of its waste to out-of-state landfills. The Western Queens Compost Initiative believes that half of that waste could be composted within the city.

WQCI sets up a collection spot for organic waste during NYC's Five Boro Bike Tour
WQCI collects hundreds of pounds of organic waste that would have gone to a landfill

Composting not only reduces waste and its harmful effects, but is also a benefit to the environment. Aside from its use in farms and gardens, compost adds vital nutrients back into city soil, helps prevent erosion, and increases moisture retention. It is virtually free, can be used to grow food as well as ornamental plants, and without the use of advanced technology, it can further reduce our dependency on petrochemical-derived fertilizer.

Newly added organic waste to compost bin

WQCI hosts and participates in a great series of events throughout the season, all of which are posted on their website. Their current event, Project LeafDrop, begins today and continues through November. Queens residents may bring their bagged leaves to eight different drop-off spots on selected days throughout the next month.

WQCI coordinators oversee day to day operations, monitor tasks, liaise with officials, and conduct educational workshops, but they also rely heavily on volunteers to collect and transport organic waste, assist at community gardens, and support their various events. If you would like to get involved, please contact Western Queens Compost Initiative at wqnscompost@gmail.com, and visit their website for organic waste drop-off information.

One of WQCI's compost bins at Brooklyn Grange' rooftop farm in LIC, Queens

Check out our next article: Hidden Variables: Local & Organic Produce
Check out our previous article: Brooklyn's Edible Schoolyard

1 comment:

Container Rental NYC said...

Great post! Go green!!

-Land Source Container Service, Inc.