On Queens Boulevard and 70th Avenue each Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through December 29, patrons can not only purchase nutritious local and regional produce, but now walk steps away to the BIG! Compost kiosk.
Fruit and vegetable scraps, bread, cereal, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg and nut shells, pits, and insect-free dried houseplants and potting soil are just some of the items that can be dropped off.
Scraps can be transported in reusable containers, paper bags, and plastic bags. Items that will not be composted are meat, dairy, bones, and oily products. It is recommended that patrons freeze food scraps to eliminate odors when stored in their homes.
BIG! Compost’s debut in Forest Hills on June 2 was an overwhelming success.
“We collected 162 pounds on the first day of the market, which is the highest amount we’ve received for a new drop-off site on record,” stated Chris Bivens, a coordinator with the NYC Compost Project. “There was a really great response from the community. One woman has been saving her food scraps since December. It’s exciting to hear how dedicated residents are to composting.”
New York City residents discard 650,000 tons of food scraps annually, only to be deposited in landfills hundreds of miles away. When food breaks down in landfills it releases methane, which is associated with climate change.
On the other hand, BIG! Compost’s finished compost can act as a slow-release fertilizer for street trees, community gardens, and window boxes. Gina Baldwin of BIG! Compost explained the process of composting.
“Nitrogen-rich food scraps from drop-off sites are mixed with carbon rich materials such as leaves and wood chips to create optimal conditions for decomposition,” she said. “Food scraps turn into usable compost in three months, which is given to communities to improve their urban soil.”
Some composting organizations charge a collection fee, but BIG! Compost isn’t one of them. Rather, funding is provided by the Department of Sanitation and North Star’s Greening Western Queens Fund.
Although BIG! Compost is a newcomer to Forest Hills, they began collecting food scraps at greenmarkets in 2009. There are drop-off sites throughout Queens each day, such as at greenmarkets in Jackson Heights, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Sunnyside, as well as at select Queens Library branches.
“At drop-off sites, we have bins where residents can deposit their food scraps,” explained Baldwin. “We also have a bin containing wood shavings, which are used to cover the food scraps particularly in the warm summer months, enabling us to keep our compost sites odor-free and pest-free.”
The kiosk also serves as an educational base where patrons can learn about composting in New York City.
“In partnership with the Forest-Rego Compost Collective at the Forest Hills Greenmarket, we aim to educate the community about waste reduction,” Baldwin said
“We have a strong calling for environmental causes worldwide, but wanted to make a change in our own backyard,” said Forest Hills resident Carlos Pesantes, who plays a leading role in the Forest-Rego Compost Collective.
The group's goal is to educate and work with neighbors to divert food scraps and yard waste from the landfill, and repurpose it into compost, which they will use and distribute within the neighborhood.
The success of the Forest-Rego Compost Collective is already evident. The group recently beautified an underutilized site behind The Church-in-the-Gardens, and turned it into Forest Hills’ first compost site.
“Regular hours will make the drop-off of food scraps easy for neighborhood residents, and they will be able to use compost produced at the garden for their personal plants,” said Pesantes. “The site will also be used for educational workshops and skills exchanges.”
Classes will feature everything from composting to producing cheese, yogurt, and kombucha tea.
Forest-Rego Compost Collective has also reached out to Home Depot at 75-09 Woodhaven Boulevard requesting to transform the back of its property into a spot for composting and greenery.