Master composter and graphic designer Debbie Ullman is concerned about the amount of organic food waste that New Yorkers throw out each day. The former newspaper designer decided to take matters into her own hands to get more people composting by creating the New York Compost Box Project. The unique urban intervention repurposes newspaper boxes around the city as guerrilla compost drop-off sites.
According to the NYC Department of Sanitation, almost a third of New Yorkers’ trash comprises organic waste like food scraps, spoiled food, food-soiled paper, and yard trimmings and plants. As we know, this type of waste adds to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. However, when this organic waste is composted, it’s converted into a nutrient-rich additive that can be used in many ways, including nourishment for city gardens.
Although the DSNY does have an Organics Collection Program that aims to divert the city’s food waste from landfills, it is a pilot system with few routes. Now, thanks to Ullman’s New York Compost Box Project, busy residents can recycle their food waste on their own schedules, in one of the initiative’s repurposed newspaper boxes.
So far, Ullman has only placed three compost boxes around the city, but hopes to see the project grow in the future. “I see it as an urban intervention,” says Ullman, a master composter who spent more than a decade in graphics at the New York Daily News. “My goal is to make people more aware of the value and ease of composting, while at the same time making use of these boxes we all know are yesterday’s news. This process will encourage engagement with the boxes, creating an innovative and unexpected experience.”