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DEC declares Compost Awareness Week


Mon, May 7th 2018 01:55 pm
Composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions & dependence on landfills
Over the weekend, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the start of New York State Compost Awareness Week to raise awareness about the environmental benefits of composting. Recycling food scraps, grass, leaves, yard clippings and other organic materials by composting reduces dependence on landfills and combustors, to lower harmful emissions while producing valuable, nutrient-rich compost that improves both soil health and water quality.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared the week of May 6-12 New York State Compost Awareness Week in a proclamation.
"New Yorkers have been leaders in sustainability and effectively managing and recycling waste," Seggos said. "Increasing composting offers a unique opportunity to reduce our dependence on landfills and protect the planet from harmful methane emissions, while simultaneously harnessing the beneficial properties of these organics. I encourage all New Yorkers to consider composting, either at home or by separating organics for collection and transport to a composting facility."
Organic materials make up approximately 30 percent of municipal waste. DEC estimates more than 3 million tons of food scraps are disposed in landfills or managed in combustors each year.
When disposed of in a landfill, these materials create methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that can cause harm to the atmosphere if not properly controlled. Conversely, when food scraps and other organic materials are composted, no methane is produced. Composting returns organic matter to the soil, improving the health of the soils, conserving water, and decreasing erosion.
Recycling organic materials by composting, anaerobic digestion, land application and other organics recycling technologies reduces greenhouse gases, enriches soil, creates energy and generates jobs. It also reduces reliance on waste disposal.
New York places a high priority on reducing wasted food, donating excess food to food-insecure people and recycling food scraps through composting or anaerobic digestion. An estimated 37 million tons of municipal solid waste are managed each year in the state. To reduce the amount of waste and the associated emissions from landfills and waste to energy facilities, New York's local governments and solid waste planning units can adopt climate smart solid waste management strategies that include waste prevention, reuse, comprehensive recycling and organic material (food scraps and green waste) recovery programs.
In 2016 and 2017, DEC awarded Climate Smart Communities program grants totaling more than $5 million to 10 projects to enhance food recovery and management of food waste to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the Food Bank Association of New York State is administering a $2.8 million grant program to help regional food banks capture more food for donation. Many healthful foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products often require refrigeration. This funding will help these 10 regional food banks collect and store this perishable food longer so it can better reach the soup kitchens, food pantries and other emergency feeding programs serving food-insecure people throughout the state.
Today, more than 700,000 tons of organic materials are processed each year in compost facilities across the state, including large regional composting facilities and small compost piles at schools and homes. Yard trimmings, including leaves and grass, are the most commonly accepted materials at compost facilities. More recently, some composting facilities have begun accepting food scraps. Many gardeners have long recognized the benefits of composting food scraps and other organics to boost soils and reduce the use of fertilizer and pesticides. In addition, compost can be used as a mulch around plantings to hold in moisture and prevent weeds from growing. 
New York State Compost Awareness Week is an opportunity to recognize the benefits of composting and to promote composting organics from homes, businesses, schools and more. For additional information, visit DEC's organics recycling webpage at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8798.html.

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