Brooklyn Boro

Local group picks up where city left off on composting

Prospect-Lefferts Gardens volunteer org seeks to expand

April 9, 2021 Clark Adomaitis
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On Sunday, March 21, some 359 Brooklyn residents dropped off 2,140 pounds of organic waste at a volunteer-powered compost drop-off site in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

Nurture BK, the above-mentioned organics collection site, is located on the southeast corner of Prospect Park at Ocean and Parkside avenues. More than 30 volunteers help collect residents’ compost on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., collecting more than 2,000 pounds of organic trash weekly.

“Since we started in June 2020, we’ve diverted over 66,000 pounds of waste from landfills,” says Anneliese Zausner-Mannes, co-founder of the project.

The city’s own composting program, GrowNYC, closed in March 2020 “due to budget cuts related to COVID-19.” Citywide organics recycling programs once received $24.5 million annually. In FY21, however, community composting will receive just $2.8 million.

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Some of that money is slated for Big Reuse, an environmental nonprofit that picks up Nurture BK’s compost collections every week. Big Reuse trucks transport Nurture BK’s loads to the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Salt Lot on Second Avenue, which can process 150 tons of organic material and yard waste every year.

Preparing organic waste material in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens for composting. Photo courtesy of Nurture BK

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens’ local compost drop-off point was also at Ocean and Parkside avenues, at the Q train’s Parkside Avenue station. The spot operated for a few hours on Thursday mornings, which gave commuters the opportunity to compost.

Since closing in March, 19 GrowNYC compost drop-off sites have reopened, but 49, including the original Prospect-Lefferts Garden site, remain closed.

In June 2020, Nurture BK organizers got tired of waiting. They started their own compost collection and quickly developed it into a mutual aid community institution. They’ve since expanded the collections to collect soft plastics, In addition to the collections, the group maintains a “fridge table” to which locals donate pasta, butter, canned meat, tuna fish, and more. Residents in need can take from the table, and Nurture BK brings extra food to the Flatbush Friendly Fridge as well.

“People depend on that table to get their groceries for the week,” Zausner-Mannes says.

Nurture BK hosts different initiatives for items that are more difficult to recycle. They’ve collected Brita water filters, lightbulbs, and contact lenses. The program has collected electronic devices in a partnership with South Brooklyn Mutual Aid. The devices are then refurbished and given to low-income students who need them to connect to the internet.

Zausner-Mannes hopes to create another compost drop-off in Marine Park by the end of April. However, the group needs funding to expand.

“We need funding and institutional support. This isn’t possible on a large scale without funding,” Zausner-Mannes says.

Here are the GrowNYC compost drop-off sites in Brooklyn that have reopened since the pandemic:

Bed Stuy: Decatur Street and Lewis Avenue.
Carroll Gardens: Smith Street and 1st Place.
Flatbush: Argyle and Cortelyou roads.
Fort Greene: Washington Park and Myrtle Avenue
Greenpoint-Williamsburg: McCarren Park, North 12th Street and Driggs Avenue.

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