Garbage is an immense economic burden and environmental challenge for cities. The amount of trash produced by each person in the US is rising at exponential rates. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010, the US generated about 250 million tons of trash, which is about 4.43 pounds of waste per person per day. Residential garbage in New York City adds up to 12,000 tons per day. Transporting garbage costs New York City approximately $1.1 million a day, with prices most likely on the rise.
But food refuse isn’t trash—it’s a resource. When composted, it becomes nutrient-rich soil that can be used for gardens, trees and parks. According to the EPA, 13.4% of the waste produced in the US in 2010 was yard trimmings, 13.9% was food scraps. That’s about 27% of organic waste that is currently dragged into unsustainable waste management systems. Instead, we could be collecting and composting this material, and creating jobs along the way.
In New York City, there are few if any private or public companies collecting food scraps directly from people’s homes. Dirt Works would like to change that, so we’re coming up with a model that could be brought to urban areas around the world. We are currently developing two pilot programs in Brooklyn, NY, that will give us valuable information on food scrap collection and composting and prepare us to expand operations. Please check back as our project unfolds.