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Administration - Sustainability at Lehman College

Recycling and Composting and Sustainability

Food Composting

Food Composting: What are its goals?

Decomposition of organic materials is a natural process. Composting is human intervention to promote this natural process. By now, most people understand that composting is the right thing to do.  A very basic question that is seldom asked or answered is: what are the goals of composting - - of food composting in particular?

Composting makes food waste disappear. Food waste comprises approximately 17% of NYC’s waste stream. When food waste is part of the regular trash, it is sent to landfill, where conditions utterly halt the decomposition process. Composting food scraps in the home, bringing food scraps to one of the many Local Organics Recovery Program drop-off sites (of which Lehman College has one, Mondays, 8-11 am), and/or participating in NYC’s Dept. of Sanitation neighborhood Organics Collection Program are great ways to divert this significant waste component from the trash. Utilize as many of these methods as available!

Composting as an educational tool. Although composting is as old as agriculture itself, most modern-day non-agricultural people are unfamiliar with the process and its benefits. Composting misconceptions and myths are potent barriers to composting, particularly for food scrap composting (e.g. composting attracts rats and it stinks). Food scrap composting can be made efficient, with a minimum of handling, equipment and space; odor-free and UNattractive to wildlife. Contact the Lehman College Sustainability Council for a tour of composting operations.

Composting leads to community-building. Composting is best accomplished as a community effort. For a start, more participants = more starting materials = more compost. Members of the Lehman College community (as well as anyone who lives in the neighborhood) are invited to participate directly in the on-campus food scrap composting drop off. Or, participate in a food scrap composting drop off site in another part of NYC, or outside NYC. These sites are staffed by people who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic but realistic about individual- and collective sustainability efforts. Consider volunteering for a morning/afternoon of composting operations at one of NYC’s urban production farms.

Food scrap composting makes high-quality compost. Whether by the Rocket, the open, outdoor food composting pile, composting by worms or the NYC Compost Project’s green composting bins, food scrap composting operations at Lehman College produces a high-quality product. The Sustainability Council is currently implementing a process that maximizes the throughput of the Rocket, and incorporates the maximum quantity of dry leaves into the mix (our trees drop approximately 35 tons of leaves each fall). The final volume of finished, cured food scrap compost is surprisingly small: 24 TONS (!) of starting materials (food scraps + dry leaves or wood chips) collected and composted over the past 2 years has yielded approximately 4 cubic yards of finished, cured compost. This is an astounding volume reduction!

This page barely scratches the surface of the goals of composting. Composting leads in every direction with its positive environmental impacts, more of which will be discussed on the Sustainability website in the coming months. Please check back at this site periodically!