Composting in the City 101 : Lower East Side Ecology Center Compost Drop Off

Nothing is as healthy for the planet like composting. I'm serious. Composting is one of the best ways for humans to manage food consumption, waste and give back to the Earth.

There are plenty of ways to compost in and around New York City and the surrounding area that does not include worms, or even getting your hands too dirty. Yes, it may involve not using your freezer for food items, but composting does involve some give and take.  Keeping that in mind, here is an easy option for those interested, but not willing to commit to a patch of compost in your back yard, or maybe you don't have a back yard, so your counter top.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Lower East Side Ecology Center Composting (Around NYC)

Since 1990, the Lower East Side Ecology Center has been offering recycling and composting options around NYC.  Offering compost drop off locations around NYC during Farmers Markets, they are one of the easiest ways to compost in New York!

Participants can drop off their kitchen scraps at 38 City-wide drop-off locations. The collected materials are transported to East River Park and processed in their in-vessel composting system. After three months, the finished compost makes its way back to the Union Square Greenmarket, where it is sold either as compost or as part of our potting soil mix.

Hours of access at the Union Square Greenmarket are 8am-4pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  A full list of locations and hours is available on the Greenmarket website.

Acceptable for Composting:

  • All fruit and vegetable peelings and pits
  • Non-greasy food scraps or leftovers
  • Rice, pasta, bread, cereal, etc.
  • Coffee grounds with filter, tea bags
  • Hair and nails (animal or human)
  • Egg and nut shells
  • Cut or dried flowers, wreaths
  • Houseplants and potting soil

Not Acceptable for Composting:

  • Meat, chicken, and fish
  • Greasy food scraps or leftovers
  • Fats or oils
  • Dairy items (cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.)
  • Dog or cat feces, kitty litter
  • Coal or charcoal
  • Coconuts
  • Diseased and/or insect-infested houseplants and potting soil

This is the method I use and have been using since I discovered the option. While it can be a pain to carry the scraps weekly, or a few times a week, it is easier to do than to store them for one drop off.  If freezing the compost (see below), it will get heavy, so plan your drop off schedule accordingly.

I freeze my compost scraps to avoid bugs and smells, but if you plan on composting every day available, then you may not want to freeze. You'll notice as it gets warmer that freezing your  compost scraps is better.  If you make leftovers and store them in your freezer, this option may not be for you.  My freezer is usually empty, so it makes storing compost scraps a breeze! I use produce bags from the grocery store to store my scraps (I double bag them as I put coffee grinds in my compost and if there is any liquid it may leak out.)  Most drop off locations have bins for users to throw their used plastic bags and containers. I believe they are recycled. However, I'm not 100% certain where they go post drop off.

There are definitely messy elements to composting, but the benefits of composting are great. I hate the idea of throwing food out. And composting forces me to be aware of the things I buy and eat and the things I don't eat. You'd be surprised by how aware you become by composting and then carrying your scraps to be composted!

I encourage you to give this method a try if you're not too keen on having a bucket in your apartment, or don't have garden space to compost on your own. In my next article, we'll discuss in-home composting bins and outdoor composting. Stay tuned! 

If you compost now, please leave a comment and let us know your experience.  Again, we learn together - that's what makes us a community! 

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