Gather Those Food Scraps!

In December of 2021, in partnership with Rockland Green, Orangetown launched a food waste recycling program. As of early August, over 500 households are participating, and Rockland Green has harvested 55,880 pounds of food waste and converted it into fertilizer.

“We’re extremely happy with it,” says a representative from Town Supervisor Teresa Kenny’s office. “Our goal is to have curbside pick up,” she added, but couldn’t say when that might be.

It’s too early for the town to have official data on how the program affects Orangetown’s waste stream, but one anecdotal way to measure is to give it a try. When peelings, coffee grounds, spoiled fruits and vegetables, bones, stale bread, moldy cheese - anything that decomposes - ends up in a food scrap bin, what remains is surprisingly light, dry and clean. This means fewer trips to the garbage bin and potentially, fewer pick-ups by the garbage hauler. Multiply that change by 17,825 (the number of Orangetown households in 2020 according to the 2020 Census) and it’s easy to imagine how much smaller and lighter Orangetown’s waste stream can be.

And why should we care about that? Because every year Rockland County pays to truck approximately 400,000 tons of waste over 300 miles north to two landfills in New York’s Finger Lakes region - more than any other county in New York. That’s an expensive and unsustainable solution to Rockland’s garbage problem. In a 2017 open letter to Rockland County residents, the president of the Finger Lakes’ Zero Waste Coalition, Douglas C. Knipple, writes, “There is much you can do as individuals by adopting the four principles of zero waste in your personal lives: reduce your consumption (it will save you money); reuse items or donate them to others who will; recycle clean plastic, paper, cardboard, glass and metal and…if your circumstances permit, compost vegetal food scraps.” Knipple suggests that if each Rockland County household were to adopt these zero waste principles, then his region, and indeed, all of New York State would benefit.

As an early adopter of the food scrap recycling program, I have nothing but praise. Taking the filled bin to the drop off site is easy to do. The small bags are free and readily available at local libraries as well as at the Highway Department. Unfortunately, the large bags have been discontinued (too expensive) but consolidating smaller bags into a larger bin with a secure lid does the trick. Reducing the amount of garbage we generate is critical for the town, the state and the planet, and by removing food scraps from the garbage stream, every household can make a difference every single day. Be sure to remove any stickers, rubber bands and twist ties, and of course, no plastic wrappers or bags, no paper, no pet waste and no tape.