The 8.5 million people living in New York City throw out 14 million tons of waste annually. Organics comprise the majority of this waste. The City spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to pick up and ship all of this waste to landfills and incinerators sometimes hundreds of miles away.

Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco all have mandatory urban composting programs, but former NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s 2013 curbside food waste program was a landmark piece of legislation for urban sustainability in America. New York City’s goal is to provide all of its residents food waste recycling by the end of 2018. Meeting this goal will require solving an immense logistical problem: how do you get millions of people living in small apartments to separate their food scraps, store them in odorless and rodent free containers, and get it picked up from the narrow streets of NYC? As in the famous  Frank Sinatra song, if composting can make it in New York, it can make it anywhere.

The City’s composting operations include the difficult but important task of removing any inorganic materials and pulverizing waste that is difficult to break down. Further education and initiatives are required to get New Yorkers to separate their trash properly. Beyond composting, the other burgeoning recycling initiative in NYC is the creation of biogas using anaerobic digesters. These machines grind up organics into a kind of soup and harness the power of microbes to produce a gas that can be used as fuel or converted to electricity.

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