Let's have a foam party!

UPDATE: Long Island Compost Corp. recently submitted plans to build the first  to build the first anaerobic digester in the NYC region. The digester can handle up to 120,000 tons of food waste per year, and along with increased recycling and composting, will offer the chance to put a real dent in NYC's waste stream. So next time you're throwing out your apple, it could find itself back into your lightbulb. (11/6/2013).

Last week, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) issued a request for proposals for compostable plates, which would replace styrofoam plates and trays in almost 1250 schools - the largest school system in the country. The elimination of the substance in the waste stream will in turn allow the DOE to begin composting on a much wider scale. Previously, styrofoam's ubiquity and tendency to easily disintegrate thwarted attempts to scale-up composting initiatives.

This announcement heralds a rapid change of pace from just a few years ago, when styrofoam was the city-wide standard and composting was relegated to a few entrepreneurial or well-resourced facilities. But it seems that 2013 has been a watershed year for those looking to turn banana peels into fodder for apple trees and find alternates for the 1.2 million tons of organic waste New York City ships to landfills each year:

  • A Department of Sanitation pilot residential organic-collection program that began in Staten Island in the Spring of 2013 was expanded twice, and is now serving select areas in four boroughs;
  • In his last State of the City address, Mayor Bloomberg announced his intention to double New York City's recycling rate (albeit from a meager 15%) by 2017;
  • And that's not all! In his legacy-count-down, Bloomberg has stated that he wants the City Council to make NYC the first (U.S.) city to ban styrofoam entirely (nb: several foundations, including The Overbrook Foundation, drafted a Statement of Support to both Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn);
  • Mayor Bloomberg has also signaled that he plans to introduce legislation that would ban food from landfills;
  • Plans have been made to use the organic material that will be diverted: the Bloomberg Administration plans to hire a compost plant that can handle 100,000 tons of food waste, and also plans to issue an RFP for a waste-to-biogas facility;
  • Community composting continues to accelerate (as evidenced by Overbrook's facilitation of a meeting of several of the City's leading groups, which you can read about in this blog post)
  • And finally, you can get your recycling groove on with these sing-a-longs from the NYC Department of Sanitation.

But the Big Apple is also looking to expand its influence and cement its reputation as a green innovator: the New York City DOE has partnered with the five largest school districts in the nation to form the Urban School Food Alliance: Los Angeles Unified School District, Chicago Public Schools, Dallas Independent School District, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Orange County Public Schools in Orlando. By cities purchasing collectively, the cost of an alternative tray/plate can be reduced, thus eliminating 2.6 million toxic and polluting polystyrene trays used per day in all six cities.

So let's have ourselves a foam (or rather, an anti-foam) party, and who knows? Maybe someone who reads this will be inspired to submit the winning bid!