BRONX, N.Y.—Lehman College began composting gardening waste in 1996. Now, with the help of a new composter called The Rocket®—the first in operation in the Bronx—the College can compost food waste as well. All the compost produced at Lehman is used to replace depleted nutrients in the campus soil, lessening the need for artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Manufactured by Tidy Planet Ltd. in the United Kingdom, The Rocket® composts the 120 lbs. of waste produced daily from Lehman’s on-campus food preparation, which is later added to the College’s general compost pile. Before this, food waste could not be included in general gardening compost because it would attract small animals; instead, it was placed in the garbage for pickup by the Sanitation Department.
“Using compost, which is a nutrient-rich material, helps to divert a large amount of material from going into a landfill,” said Ilona Linins, Lehman’s director of Environmental Health and Safety. “We also are able to use less chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow the wide variety of flowers and plants on our campus.”
Each year, Lehman produces about 80 tons of gardening waste and 18 tons of food waste. The cylindrical metal chamber of The Rocket® is equipped with a helical blade that rotates along with the shaft. This feature of the device automates what used to be a labor-intensive process, Linins added, since waste needs to be turned over for a period of time to facilitate the composting process. Previously, Lehman’s Buildings and Grounds staff needed to perform this function manually.
Equal volumes of food-preparation scraps (vegetable peels, cores and stalks and animal-product scraps) are added to the composter along with wood chips, which serve as a bulking agent. During its first few weeks of operation, newly generated compost from Lehman’s main compost pile was added to provide microorganisms until an ecosystem of decomposition was established within the chamber.
Lehman is the second institution in New York City to adopt use of The Rocket® (St. John’s University was the first) and the third in New York State. Purchase of the composter is part of Lehman’s plan to reduce its carbon footprint by thirty percent within ten years.
Contact: Keisha-Gaye Anderson / 718-960-8013