One of the simplest ways to help eliminate waste and fight climate change is to compost food scraps. Established in 2011 and recently reinstated after being suspended due to COVID-19 related budget cuts, GrowNYC has implemented public food scrap drop-off locations throughout the five boroughs. In its revitalization, the compost program has opened and reopened 49 food scrap drop-off sites, including the newest drop-off site in Ridgewood, located on Cypress Avenue between cross streets Myrtle Avenue and Putnam Avenue. The compost site is open year-round on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and it is operated by GrowNYC’s very own Allison Mapes and Amy Jimenez. 

In addition to working at the Ridgewood location, Mapes also assists at the Jackson Heights site, and Jimenez works at the Parkchester site in the Bronx and the 145th Street location in Manhattan. Mapes stated that the Ridgewood food scrap drop-off site opened just before Thanksgiving and “it has been promising, but outreach is still being worked on.” Mapes also explained that many people are hearing about the compost program for the first time. 

Graph depicting a steady increase in the number of food scraps collected annually until 2020 due to COVID-19. (Image courtesy of GrowNYC’s website.)

When speaking about her work with GrowNYC, Mapes reflected on what she enjoys most about working at the compost sites. “The cause, the environment, the urgency to help the environment and to meet like-minded people – it feels like a really productive way to spend my day.”

Mapes and Jimenez educate individuals at the drop-off sites about various aspects of eliminating waste, such as accepted and unaccepted materials, how food scraps can be stored, and the benefits of composting. They also provide reusable bags to those interested in collecting food scraps for composting. 

Jimenez expressed her enthusiasm about working at various sites across the city and stated that the 145th street site is currently the most active out of the three she works at. Jimenez remarked, “I’ve had people tell me, ‘you’re a lifesaver’” regarding working with and educating the public on composting as well as having an easily accessible site within the neighborhood to drop off scraps for composting. 

Both Mapes and Jimenez explained that the city also recently brought back curbside composting. However, due to budget constraints, curbside composting only returned to select neighborhoods where interest is highest, according to New York City’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY). And that does not include Ridgewood or Bushwick. So, for now, both Ridgewood and Bushwick will have to rely on compost drop-off sites like this new one. However, if enough interest is expressed, the DSNY said curbside composting could expand to the neighborhoods.  

If you are interested in composting outdoors while waiting for curbside composting to begin again, GrowNYC’s outdoor composting guide provides step-by-step guidance on how to set up a compost bin, whether you want to make it yourself or obtain one from the NYC Compost Project. The guide also has information on what to and what not to compost, how to check for ideal moisture level, how to aerate compost, ways to troubleshoot common issues and how to effectively utilize compost for various outdoor projects, including planting flowers, vegetables, trees and more. An indoor composting guide is also available for reference if interested in making or buying a worm bin to create compost. 

For updated information on the Ridgewood compost site, check out GrowNYC Queens on Instagram. To learn more about Bushwick’s GrowNYC food scrap drop-off sites, visit GrowNYC Brooklyn on Instagram as well as a previous article written on the Moffat Street Community Garden. GrowNYC is also always looking for volunteers. Learn more about those opportunities here.

Some additional compost drop-off sites in the area are listed here.


Featured photo of Amy Jimenez (left) and Allison Mapes (right) courtesy of Allison Mapes. 

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