Jersey City, NJ

Now rolling: Jersey City’s pilot residential composting pick-up program comes to your doorstep

Asha Sridhar

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - If you are a Jersey City resident, starting this week, you might spot Ollie Oliver on a nifty cargo bike, on his way to meet the next resident who has signed up for the city’s pilot residential composting pick-up program.

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Ollie Oliver on the cargo bike assigned to pick up food scraps from households in Jersey City.(Photo/Asha Sridhar)

The program expands the city’s current residential composting initiatives by offering curbside pick-up in addition to 11 drop-off locations and a backyard composting program. Collection of scraps for the pilot program, which was launched in August, started on September 14.

How many people have signed up?

And the response so far has been great, said Sonia Dublin, director, Division of Recycling, Department of Public Works. “We launched Jersey City’s first-ever composting efforts in 2018 with a Residential Compost Drop-Off Program and a Backyard Composting Program where residents can drop-off their food waste at multiple locations citywide. Due to the program’s great success, we are expanding to include curbside composting pick-up,” she said in an email.

The pilot pick-up program currently covers 61 households.

“Since a pilot program is intended to identify and work through any potential kinks along the way, we plan to significantly expand availability once the pilot is complete in just a few months,” said Dublin.

What is the schedule?

Right now, Oliver goes on his rounds from Tuesday to Thursday between 10 am and 4 pm. “It's about 20 households per day. And it's broken up that way partially to accommodate the residents’ preferred pickup times,” said the Jersey Heights resident, who has experience riding professional cargo bikes. “I'm always looking for an opportunity to use my skills and experience with bikes to help make my community better,” he said.

So, what happens once the scraps are collected? Since New Jersey, at this time, does not have a composting facility, Community Compost Company collects the material, said Dublin.

Andrea Rodriguez, sales and marketing manager, Community Compost Company said it is amazing that the city is able to, at no cost to residents, go to local households and pick up their compostable waste. “I think it's fantastic that they are providing that, especially to people that aren't able to access some of the community drop spots, whether it's because of a disability or a really tough work schedule,” she said.

I think it's fantastic that they are providing that, especially to people that aren't able to access some of the community drop spots, whether it's because of a disability or a really tough work schedule.

For those who want to participate in the pick-up program, slots are currently full. When asked if there are plans to expand, “Absolutely,” said Dublin. “Our goal is to have a sustainable composting program in Jersey City, and that takes strategic planning and implementation, which we are in the initial stages of, following the great success of our multiple composting programs prior.”

More drop-off locations in the works

There are also plans to increase the number of drop-off locations. Dublin said they are already working on adding more sites. “To add new locations we need partners, i.e., libraries, schools, and/or businesses that have ample space. Luckily, we have a fantastic community that aligns with our administrative goals to reduce our carbon footprint in every way possible,” she said. If you are considering dropping off your food scraps at one of the existing locations, be sure to check the list of things accepted for composting (link below).

How can we reduce food wastage?

Jersey City has so far collected 8,432 pounds of compost in September and upwards of 200,000 pounds since May 2019. While that is a good sign, the ultimate goal is to reduce food wastage.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) singles out wasted food as the largest category of waste landing up in municipal landfills. Wasted food estimates for as much as 30-40 percent of the food supply according to the FDA.

“We don't want the material to be composted, if it can be eaten,” said Rodriguez. Proper storage is one of the ways to increase the shelf life of food.

We don't want the material to be composted, if it can be eaten.

In their years of experience working in Jersey City and Hoboken, Community Compost Company has observed that awareness on composting and eagerness to participate has increased.

“What is really eye-opening for the residents in the communities that we partner with, is that once they start separating their food scraps for recycling, they just become more aware of how much they're actually wasting,” she observed.

When people clean out their refrigerators or discard food, it simply ends up in the garbage along with other waste. “You're not really paying attention,” said Rodriguez.

Once people realize how much they are tossing out, it leads to positive outcomes. “A lot of times, residents end up taking notice of it, and then they actually go to the store and just purchase less food because they see that they're ending up recycling it instead of actually using it.” It can also help save money because you are only buying what you need.

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A handy guide to help you store food scraps before dropping it off at one of Jersey City's drop-off locations.(Infographic/Asha Sridhar)

Resources:

Reducing food waste:

1) https://jcmakeitgreen.org/food-waste/

2) https://www.fda.gov/media/101376/download

All about composting in Jersey City:

https://jcmakeitgreen.org/composting/

What is compostable and what is not:

https://jcmakeitgreen.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Composting-Workshop-2021-PPT.pdf

Updates on sign-ups for the pilot composting pick-up program:

https://sprout.link/jcmakeitgreen/

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I am a Jersey City-based writer and editor interested in books, culture, lifestyle and stories that are off the beaten path.

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