Composting food scraps is more than just a way to reduce waste; it’s a commitment to a sustainable future.
Thanks to the partnership of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) and Rethink Food Waste NY program, administered by The Center for EcoTechnology (CET), we can support the transformative and community-building power of composting. This year, we took significant strides toward spreading this message by training enthusiastic compost advocates from across NYS in integrating food waste into composting facilities. As we wrap up our successful Compost Site Operator Training Workshops for this year, we’re thrilled to share the successes of this year’s workshops and prepare for three additional workshops to be offered in 2024.
Nurturing New York’s Composting Community
Since January 1, 2022, New York has been enforcing the Food Donation and Food Scrap Recycling Law. This law requires businesses and institutions that generate at least 2 tons of food waste per week to donate excess edible food and recycle food scraps if they are within 25 miles of an organics recycling facility, such as a compost site. To support this, Rethink Food Waste NY is on a mission to provide wasted food solutions for New York businesses, municipalities, organic recyclers, food relief organizations, and others.
Our two Compost Site Operator Training Workshops, held in Buffalo on October 3rd, and in Bethlehem on October 6th this year, have been instrumental in realizing this vision. We brought together a diverse group of individuals, from passionate community composters to municipal waste facility managers, all committed to including food scraps in their compost site’s list of accepted materials. The events were led by composting advocate and expert James McSweeney of Compost Technical Services and The 131° School of Composting. James was contracted to provide attendees with applicable knowledge that can be translated to a variety of compost sites.
The workshops offered a comprehensive experience, combining classroom sessions with practical, hands-on learning. Participants were equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to set up and manage effective compost sites. We covered topics ranging from the science of composting and site design to regulatory considerations and community engagement.
October 3rd: Buffalo River Compost
The first-ever Compost Site Operators Workshop hosted by Rethink Food Waste New York was held in Buffalo, welcoming 25 attendees from across the state. The first portion was held and catered by the impressive Resurgence Brewing Co., just a few minutes away from Buffalo River Compost, where the second half of the event and hands-on activities were held. We were incredibly inspired by Buffalo River Compost Founder, Brian Murphy’s story while giving tour of the site, as well as hearing about how the site goes above and beyond in their community by integrating excess seaweed from Lake Erie and collaborating with the Buffalo Zoo to produce their very popular “Zoo Poo” product.
“Great job, very informative. I feel like I gained more knowledge in composting!”
October 6th: Town of Bethlehem Compost Facility
A few days later, the second Compost Site Operators Workshop welcomed 30 attendees to the Town of Bethlehem. The first portion was held in the Town’s Parks & Recreation building for an important composting overview and management lessons as well as breakfast and lunch, and then the group moved to the Town of Bethlehem Compost Facility for the extremely well-received hands-on portion of the event. Recycling Coordinator Dan Rain was especially appreciated as the exemplary site’s tour guide and manager, and guests were lucky enough to witness two food scrap haulers drop off at the site, allowing for a real-time explanation of the material management process.
“Loved the site tour and field work, it was an excellent training! Very useful and practical information.”
Building Community and Infrastructure for Composting
One of the most inspiring aspects of the workshops was the sense of community that emerged. Attendees not only learned from our expert instructor James and NYS DEC representatives, but also from each other, sharing their unique experiences and perspectives. Based on post-survey results, there was a 100% affirmative response that the knowledge provided can be put into action. We look forward to seeing the impact of these events reverberate throughout the community.
Many participants also reported enjoying getting the chance to meet and engage with NYS DEC staff. Special thanks to Environmental Engineer Kristine Ellsworth of the Division of Materials Management for her support in the event planning stage and awesome presentations!
Looking Ahead to 2024
As we wrap up this year’s Compost Site Operator Training Workshops, we’re already looking forward to 2024. We’re excited to announce that three more New York Compost Site Operator Workshops are on the horizon, promising more in-depth learning, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Workshops will be held in various regions of the state. Look for save the dates in Spring 2024.
If any New York compost sites are interested in beginning or expanding their food scraps programming, please reach out to RethinkFoodWasteNY@cetonline.org to be updated with details and dates for upcoming 2024 Compost Site Operator Training Workshops. Whether you’re a seasoned composter or just starting your journey, these events welcome you. Together, we can turn organic waste into a sustainable and community- building resource, one compost pile at a time.
The Center for EcoTechnology provides no-cost assistance to businesses and institutions in New York State that are looking for solutions to wasted food. To take the next step in rethinking your operation’s food waste, contact us at 866-306-0911 or RethinkFoodWasteNY@cetonline.org.