It’s prime cooking season, and that means, many, many food scraps. Before you toss out those peels, pits and shells, consider dedicating some space in your freezer for a compost bag, to be easily disposed off in the neighborhood.
In May 2020, the city suspended its food scrap collection programs. This suspension included the brown bins used for compost. Pick up was halted, but has since resumed in Greenpoint and beyond. In North Brooklyn, local groups, like NBK Compost, have also mobilized to take over collection and continue composting.
Katie Zwick started NBK Compost with other volunteers as part of the North Brooklyn Mutual Aid ecosystem, “We heard about the planned suspension due to budget and we started chatting within the mutual aid network and said, certainly there’s people who want to keep this going in some capacity. This is a neighborhood that really took to the brown bins and usually has access to compost,” Zwick said. “We brainstormed, got some volunteers, and set up on a corner in June near Café Grumpy and started collecting food scraps. About a month in, we shifted to McGolrick Park and became a part of Down To Earth Market, which organizes the farmer’s market. The park has become this central mutual aid zone on Sundays—there’s compost, there’s clean up, the device drive. Different initiatives use it as a home.”
Zwick’s advice for first time composters is simple: “If there’s space, I like to freeze my compost, it’s a lot less smelly, and especially if you have roommates or a partner who’s not super into the idea of keeping food scraps, it’s a lot easier to get buy in,” she said. “You don’t need a fancy compost bin to get started, though you can get one if you want. An old salad container that had spinach in it works too. A paper bag works if you’re keeping it in the freezer—with that you can give us the whole thing since the paper bag is also compostable.”
It may seem like a big commitment, but Zwick encourages people to try it out, “You could also start small, try it out for a week and see how much scrap you collect in a week and figure out what’s gonna work best for you.” Another perk of collecting scraps, “Your trash won’t stink, you’ll have to take out the garbage less often.”
Interested composters can also stop by the table at McGolrick Park to ask questions, message NBK compost on Instagram or fill out the volunteer form on the site. Donations on the NBK Compost Site go towards supplies for volunteers, like gloves, hand warmers, and choppers.
Compost is used in local gardens and farming projects, keeps stuff out of landfills, improves soil health and reduces carbon emissions. NBK Compost scraps are processed at the Big Reuse in Queens, which gives free compost to anyone who requests it. People use the compost in community gardens, home gardens, and plots of trees. The Big Reuse is currently in jeopardy as the parks department wants to use the site for storage. Domino Park uses the compost in its own gardens.
When dropping off compost, check each site or social media page to see exactly what you can bring (some sites will accept eggshells for example, and others will not).While cooking, keep a bowl out to collect scraps instead of throwing them in the trash. NBK Compost also encourages people to use food scraps in recipes before turning to compost: the end goal is to reduce food waste. Zwick can’t recommend it enough, “I learn a lot just by doing this every week, it’s hard work but it’s definitely very rewarding. It feels like a very tangible way to make sustainable choices and just be aware of waste when you’re looking at what you aren’t eating.”
Here’s the current schedule of food scrap drop off in North Brooklyn:
Mondays: Domino Park collects from 10 am to 12 pm
Thursdays: Domino Park collects from 6 pm to 8 pm
Saturdays: GrowNYC collects at the McCarren Park Greenmarket from 8 am to 12 pm.
Sundays: NBK Compost collects in McGolrick Park from 10 am to 1 pm and outside of Transmitter Park from 11:30 to 1 pm.
BK Scrap Shuttle collects in Cooper Park from 12 to 3 pm
In Bushwick, BK Rot collects scraps at Know Waste Lands from 12 to 3 pm. Donations to support the contactless drop off are encouraged.