14th Street Y composting program is offer members can’t ‘refuse’

Camille Diamond, who runs the new composting program, in front of the Y’s bin and scale Photo by Sabina Mollot

Camille Diamond, who runs the new composting program, in front of the Y’s bin and scale
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot
At the 14th Street Y, administrators have been hoping to get members to learn the joy of composting, a form of recycling of food scraps that reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
And so far, the new compost drop-off program — essentially a bin at the East 14th Street center’s lobby alongside a scale — has actually been a surprise success with its members, residents of Stuyvesant Town and the East Village, who’ve been showing more than just a fleeting interest in the waste-reducing activity.
This may be because, according to Camille Diamond, the Y’s communications director, who runs the program, the goal of the project was actually to demonstrate that composting is actually pretty simple. However, New Yorkers generally only get the opportunity to do it at greenmarkets, and even then, the food that can be composted is usually limited to produce and other items available at the markets. At the Y, other food waste can also be composted and then it’s all taken to a plant in Delaware that processes and then sells the compost to farmers.
“Composting is not something residents can do on their own,” said Diamond, adding that Y is “going to keep doing it until Manhattan decides to starts its own residential composting program. What we wanted to do is show people it’s pretty easy once they get into the habit of it.”
The program has also been used as an educational tool at the Y, which has a summer camp, and said Diamond, the kids have shown a genuine interest in the process.  “Kids understand what a landfill is,” she said. “My kids are saying, ‘Does this go into the landfill or compost?’”
Adults have too, considering that a composting workshop held at the end of June was a big hit and a couple of local restaurants, Northern Spy Food Co. and Hotel Tortuga, have offered gift certificates for participants who are automatically entered into monthly giveaways.
The composting program, which was the idea of Y member Laura Rosenshine, has been in place since March. Diamond said the Y had been looking at ways to make the building more green.
When food waste is emptied into the bin in the lobby, it goes into bio-bags, which are bags made of corn. Initially, the bags were picked up and taken away twice a week, but the pickups have become a little more frequent recently as more members have begun to participate. On average, around 300 pounds of composted materials have been coming into and leaving the Y each week and 180 member families have signed up for the program. To learn more, email camille_diamond@14streety.org.