Food Scraps Recycling: Fork ‘Em Over

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Tompkins Weekly 11-4-13

By Kat McCarthy

Hey… R you gonna recycle that? Food scraps are now on the long list of items you can recycle in Tompkins County. Whether you are a resident, employee, institution, or business owner, there are a multitude of options to save some cash while making our community a little bit greener by recycling food scraps. Home composting has been a strong initiative in this community for many years, thanks in part to the efforts of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Compost Education program in partnership with Tompkins County Solid Waste (TCSW). While that program focuses primarily on supporting backyard composting efforts, a partnership between TCSW and Cayuga Compost has expanded your options.

Do you find yourself with spoiled dairy products, unwanted meat scraps, or leftover bones? What do you do with those compostable plastics from last night’s take-out dinner? Perhaps you’ve just hosted a party where the meal was served on paper plates and napkins. Where these materials once were a waste headache, they now represent an opportunity. From home composters who choose not to include this material in their pile to residents who have no space or time for backyard composting, there is a new option: food scraps recycling.

A food scraps recycling drop spot has popped up at the Recycling and Solid Waste Center in Ithaca as well as at Cayuga Compost in Trumansburg. Simply collect food scraps in a 5-gallon bucket and bring it to your favorite drop spot. Stop by the TCSW office weekdays between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm to get your free introduction kit, including a kitchen collection caddy, compostable bags, and an informational bookmark. Since collected materials are processed at Cayuga Compost, you can recycle bread, grains, beans, paper napkins and cups, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, bones, eggs, dairy, and, compostable disposables.  Keeping food scraps in compostable bags provided in the kits makes collection and transportation to the drop spots clean, comfortable, and convenient.

Some residents on West Hill in the City of Ithaca will be given another opportunity starting on November 15th, America Recycles Day: curbside collection. This Central NY first will last 25 months through a series of pilot phases that expand to other locations in the County, pending budget approval. In the meantime, for residents living outside of the pilot area, TCSW plans to site more drop-spots throughout the county.

If you live in a large apartment complex, starting next year your property manager will be able to take advantage of a program that brings food scrap recycling closer to your door. Through this program, you’ll be able to recycle the same materials, only they will be collected in a bin placed at the complex.

Schools, businesses, and organizations also can also receive support though the ReBusiness Partners program. Participants receive hands-on assistance, troubleshooting, and recycling bins free of charge. These custom resources are designed to help launch and sustain a successful composting program.

Not only is there a focus to compost the food waste you have, but there’s also an initiative to help prevent it in the first place. Do you find that you throw away moldy food that was never touched? Did you have a hard time finishing that bag of fresh fruit before it goes bad? Resources to help you in your purchasing choices and ideas for food donation outlets are also being created, reducing waste before it occurs.

Welcome to the next frontier of recycling. Initiatives like these are taking place beyond our county, across the state and country. Through participation in these programs, we support a county-wide goal of 75% waste diversion by the year 2016. It just makes sense – keep resources local, reduce waste sent to the landfill, and save yourself some cash. In essence, get your greenback! By cutting back on how much waste you create, you can save money on trash tags and hauling services. Taking smelly food scraps out of the garbage reduces its weight and lets you go longer between buying trash tags. And while you’re saving money, you’re also making our community that much greener. So remember folks, once you’re done enjoying your food, fork ‘em over, and recycle your food scraps.

For more information, visit or contact or 273-6632.

Kat McCarthy is the Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist at Tompkins County Solid Waste.

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