When Robert Coleman is done enjoying his apples, eggs and coffee, he returns the cores, shells and grounds back to his refrigerator.
They stay there — along with other food scraps — until he can carry them on two buses and two trains to compost bins in Union Square.
“Occasionally, I’ve noticed stares from people who see me with what they might regard as bags of trash,” said Coleman, 53, of Hempstead, L.I., whose green routine also includes buying organic foods at the farmers’ market. “But I’ve probably returned 3,000 pounds back to the earth, literally, in 10 years.”
In the city, about 1,000 households use the same program as Coleman, contributing four tons of food waste each week that the Lower East Side Ecology Center processes into compost used to grow more food, according to the group’s executive director Christine Datz-Romero.
City officials can’t estimate the total number of residents who compost food because many do so without municipal guidance. They buy kits from hardware stores or vermicompost with earthworms.
“You need to have space,” Datz-Romero said. “Many don’t have the capacity to handle kitchen scraps; that’s why we’re not seeing more compost in the city. We don’t have the infrastructure to support it.”
Many interviewed while dropping off food scraps off at Union Square agreed that space is a factor. Most were apartment-dwellers who have neither yards that can accommodate compost bins nor gardens that need compost.
Instead, people like Adam Gromis, 31, of Prospect Park South, are resigned to stashing food scraps in their freezer to control the smell until drop-off day. “There’s not much room for ice,” Gromis joked.
Sacha Moore, 36, of Brooklyn Heights, emptying egg shells along with other organic waste into the bins, said she usually makes weekly stops at Union Square to drop off compost.
“It doesn’t feel right to throw food-garbage into the garbage-garbage,” she said. “At least now they can use it in a positive way.”