Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Food Waste: The Worm Turns

Many of those who aggressively oppose the use of food waste disposers champion composting as a realistic alternative that is more environmentally friendly. As the DSNY points out, "The average New York City household discards two pounds of organic waste each day. This adds up to more than a million tons of organic waste per year." In response, the Department encourages New Yorkers to compost either in their backyards or indoors using (we kid you not) a "worm bin."

In fact, the Department has an entertaining brochure that it gives out to homeowners. The pamphlet details the kinds of worms best suited to the composting task (red worms are the best digesters). It was fascinating for us to be told that the best way to feed your worms is with broccoli stalks. It's also important for the budding "vermicomposter" to learn how to capture the fruit flies that inevitably become pesty accomplices to your indoor worm bin.

All of which makes for interesting reading but it has a kind of "theater of the absurd" quality. The money that is spent on this kind of quixotic venture is a waste and simply panders to the romantic environmentalists who don't want to address the realities of urban life.

In fact, as we have pointed out before, the use of food waste disposers not only is more effective at diverting food waste from export, it actually allows for the creation of the most nutrient rich compost, an end-product that is better for the soil than any backyard composting could ever hope to achieve.

In addition, the use of commercial disposers has the added environmental advantage of being able to facilitate the recycling of the waste that remains once organic material is diverted. Implemented properly, this methodology could allow the city to reduce the number of transfer stations needed to export municipal waste. It's a relatively simple technology with wide-ranging implications for waste reduction.