East Hampton Town is launching a pilot composting program, an effort aimed at diverting, recovering, and reusing residential food scraps to create compost and return it to the soil.
East Hampton Compost, as the food scrap drop-off program is known, is a collaboration of the town and ReWild Long Island. Participating residents can transform food scraps into nutrient-rich compost that revitalizes soil, reduces their carbon footprint, reduces stormwater runoff, and supports pollinator populations.
East Hampton Compost will receive food scraps at two farmers markets. The one in Springs will receive drop-offs on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting this week and continuing through Sept. 23. The Sag Harbor Farmers Market will accept drop-offs on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, starting on July 22 and continuing into late September. Additional locations may be added.
Accepted items are raw or cut fruit, vegetable scraps, and peels; loose leaf tea and coffee grounds; eggshells; green and brown leaves; cut flowers and grass; dry soil conditioners from countertop composters, and black-and-white newsprint (one to two sheets per load, torn or shredded).
Collected food scraps will be composted at the town’s recycling center on Springs-Fireplace Road, where leaves and other vegetation are already composted.
A website, easthamptoncompost.org, has been set up, and residents have been asked to visit it to register to drop off food scraps at one of the above locations, learn more about the program, or volunteer. Gloria Frazee of the town’s energy sustainability committee, a co-leader of ReWild Long Island’s local chapter, can be emailed for more information at [email protected].
Reducing food waste is one of the top solutions to reversing climate change. Nearly 40 percent of food is wasted in the United States, according to Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization, with nearly half of that total coming from households. Food waste creates greenhouse gases, “whether it’s carbon dioxide if it’s been open to the air, or if it’s coming up as methane when it’s anaerobically treated” such as decomposing in plastic bags in a landfill, Mark Haubner, chairman of Riverhead Town’s environmental advisory committee, told the town board in May.
On Tuesday night, Ms. Frazee said that, on average, $1,850 worth of food per household is thrown away in the town annually. Multiplying that by 11,000 households, more than $20 million worth of food is wasted every year. Taxpayers’ money allocated to handle that waste exceeds $300,000 per year, she said, considering factors such as Sanitation Department staff, equipment, and trucking. “We’re paying an awful lot for food waste,” she said.
But there is further impact, she said, in the form of greenhouse gas emissions from that trucking, the slow breakdown of food waste in landfills, and the incinerators to which most of the town’s trash is taken.
“Reduce, reuse, and recycle” is a useful mantra for dealing with food waste, Ms. Frazee said.
Councilwoman Cate Rogers said the board hopes the pilot program can increase its capacity in time.