Troy food waste and other organic materials are going to landfills at great public expense, thus locking away valuable nutrients for improving soil fertility and growing nutrient-dense foods. The Composting Working Group arose out of the conference on channeling Troy's food waste toward local food production, held at RPI October 5, 2011. It was the first Zero Waste initiative by Transition Troy.
We are interested citizens, experts, and officials exploring options for large-scale, food-grade composting, creating demonstrations to test selected options, and developing the next steps. So far, many Troy City Council members are interested in exploring municipal scale composting. There are 2 small scale neighborhood composting projects getting started, one in Troy's North Central neighborhood and one in the Osgood neighborhood. We envision beginning to invite teachers to start worm bin composting in classrooms. Several local resources for starting to compost at home are included at the end of this blog.
During US Composting Council's designated International Compost Awareness Week May 6-12, we plan to have many compost education and awareness activities.
If you would like information or to join the Composting Working Group, you may contact:
To put our current efforts in context, below are the experts who shared their knowledge with us at the October 5 conference. Their work can continue to inform us. Many of their projects may be found on their websites.
- Large scale collection systems
Phil Holloway—Environmental Products and Services of Vermont
Dave Mosher—Schenectady Soil and Water Conservation District
What are the issues with large-scale collection systems? What are the strategies that address the issues? How often must food waste and yard waste be collected? How do you prevent contaminants (like plastic forks and packaging) from getting into the waste material? What would a large scale collection system for the City of Troy look like?
- Value of food-grade compost
Seth Jacobs—Slack Hollow Farm
Matt Schueler—Capital District Community Gardens
How is food-grade compost different from non-food grade compost? What are the benefits of food grade compost compared to non-food grade compost?
- Harvesting fuel from digestion — biogas
Greg Bell—BioEnergies of the Americas
Katie Picchione, student researcher
Can biogas production co-exist with compost production? How? What techniques can be used? What are the issues, and the strategies to address them?
- Basics of composting and decomposition
What is the science? How does compost happen? What is compost? How can I compost now?
- Neighborhood-scale composting and grass roots education about composting
Abby Lublin—Collard City Growers
Sidney Fleisher—residential building rehabilitator
How might this work in Troy? Advice from Troy Code Enforcement
- Quality assurance techniques
Erich McEnroe—McEnroe Organic Farm
What are the quality management issues during the collection process? How do you train people to separate contaminants, etc? What systems must be created at the separation/collection to minimize quality problems? How do you get compost certified? How do you test compost for quality?
- Large-scale composting techniques
Jean Bonhotal—Cornell Waste Management Institute, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
What are the techniques for large-scale composting? Which techniques produce food grade compost, as opposed to non-food grade compost? How might large scale composting techniques work in Troy?
- Business side of composting including distribution
Steve Davis—Ecolibrium LLC
Brent Solina—Rensselaer student, biochemist, entrepreneur
What are the costs in collecting, producing and distributing food-grade compost? How marketable is food-grade compost? How “ready” is the market for food-grade compost? How much would people pay for it?
Troy backyard composters, please note these highlights of code regulations on composting, courtesy of Mr. Len Welcome, Office of the City Engineer, Troy Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering and Code Enforcement:
The City of Troy appreciates your efforts to minimize food waste from entering the municipal waste system. However, composting must be done right so that it does not become a nuisance and health hazard. In particular, please note: Compost piles are nice and warm in the winter, and rodents love to move in. If this occurs or a strong odor occurs you will be asked to remove your compost pile.
Regulations for installing a compost box require the following setbacks:
- 5 foot setback from the property lines if you are in an R-1 Zone.
- 3 foot setback from the property lines if you are in the other zones.
For more information contact Mr. Welcome at 279-7193.
FOR LEAFLETS ON HOW TO COMPOST AT HOME:
“Making the Most of Compost” or contact Capital District Community Gardens 40 River Street, Troy, NY 12180, (518) 274-8685
“Everything You Wanted to Know About Composting, But Were Afraid to Ask” or contact NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Materials Management Bureau of Waste Reduction & Recycling, 625 Broadway Albany, NY 12233-7253, (518) 402-8706
“Home Composting” or contact the Rensselaer County Cooperative Extension Office 61 State Street, Troy, NY 12180 (518) 272-4210
Sheree is an environmental advocate working hard to make Troy better for the future. She may be reached by email: Sheree@nycap.rr.com or by phone: (518) 286-0359