Cities all over the country have regular trash cans plus blue and green bins for recyclables. But now more municipalities are starting to offer smaller brown bins for food waste like vegetable peels, pits, broccoli stems, spoiled lettuce - the things in our fridge we don't quite have a use for, but can quickly fill up our regular trash can that would be better off becoming part of the earth. These compost bins are becoming popular in New York City in accordance with plans to take the green and turn it into gas.
The New York Times reports that the bins are a part of the city's campaign to reduce landfill use and cut greenhouse gas emissions. New York throws out about 14 million tons of waste every year which it costs almost $400 million annually to ship to incinerators or landfills. Sometimes New Yorker's garbage gets sent as far away as South Carolina. Not only is the city producing an enormous amount of trash, but the trucks sometimes used to transport it are also producing waste into the air via pollution.
The new program takes the compostable items and turns them into biogas, which is basically methane and carbon dioxide. When refined, it can be used in a natural gas pipeline, as fuel for trucks and buses, even used to heat to power electricity in buildings. Since organized waste is one of the biggest components of most people's trash, this would relieve stress on landfills and waste removal while creating something that can add to society in a million ways.
The program has been tested since 2012, at Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, and now researchers are being given $30 million from utility provider National Grid to build a new system for the plant that will squeeze out the water vapor and carbon dioxide to make the methane more clean. They're estimating that some national grid users will be powered by the biogas by early next year. While the program is small, its potential is great.
You may not personally have room for a small brown bin full of food waste at your front door, but many farmer's markets and gardens have compost systems that connect to city waste management. Empty your trash and light up someone's home!
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