The Import/Export Business

I occasionally hear from apartment dwellers frustrated that they can’t compost. I point them to this indoor composting contraption or suggest worm bins. But here’s a new idea: Export your compost!

I just found out that New Yorkers can drop off their food waste at Union Square Farmer’s Market, where the Lower East Side Ecology Center will compost it with their in-vessel system. They have a few groundrules–hair and nails (human or animal) are OK, but not so coal or dog poop. Fair enough.

McCarren Park compost drop off. Photo by ryanlachicaThere are a number of public compost spots, like the one in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park. But the farmer’s market drop spot is ideal. If every farmer’s market had a compost collection, it’d complete a virtuous circle: Every week, you buy fresh produce, eat most of it (hopefully) and bring back the scraps, which the farmer uses to make compost to help grow more food.

Bringing your compost bucket to the market would become part of the routine (with a separate container for the fresh food, natch). Does anyone know if this occurs at other farmer’s markets?

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  1. Posted December 22, 2008 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    To answer the question at the end of your post: no. I don’t know of other farmer’s markets that do this.

    I do know of many farmer’s markets that have been attempting to streamline the process by which WIC and EBT (Food Stamp) dollars enter into the markets. In this way, many local farmers have tapped into a consumer based subsidy of their local products. Pretty neat. If your farmer’s market isn’t currently EBT ready, perhaps you could work with them to make that happen. Obviously this has little to do with food waste, but lots to do with regional food issues. Just thought I would plug it into this conversation.
    Peace and Love,

  2. Posted December 29, 2008 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Found a couple more links:

    In San Francisco, CA

    In Boulder, CO

    Looks like food composting at farmers markets is in practice in a few areas. What a fantastic idea!

  3. Mimi W.
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    The officials in the City of Falls Church, VA should get this started at their farmers market. You could suggest it to them, JB.

  4. Harry
    Posted March 19, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    The sellers themselves would LOVE this. FMs have been springing up all over the place, many of them places not designed to deal with lots of waste. As a result most places require the FMs pack out all their waste. Imagine what a food truck smells like at the end of the 3 day selling trip! Any way to reduce what they have to pack out would be welcomed and I bet that they’d be willing to consider a small fee to make it happen.

    The problem of unsuitable space remains. If the FM is at an office plaza or a subway stop (the typical haul-away location in my area), there’s no place to have a compost pile. Assuming one could overcome the ick and NIMBY factor from those unfamiliar with the joys of compost.

    I used to get greens for my compost piles from the local FM. The sellers loved giving it to me. This was back when I had the yard space to compost by the cubic yard: picking up OPG[1] and garbage bags of coffee grounds from Starbucks, and county-provided leaf mulch to use for browns.[2] Now I have a small city yard and can’t absorb more than my own household’s worth of kitchen scraps.

    [1] Other People’s Grass. I didn’t care about the likely lawn chemicals (some people do) and in a year of doing this I found only one broken bottle.
    [2] I added my ripped up newspapers, toilet rolls, and shredded paper but it wasn’t enough.

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