Meet the ‘Compost Concierge’ of Bryant Park

From left, Maureen Deveny of Bryant Park; Tal Zaken of DSNY; and Kati Solomon and Devin Borg of Bryant Park. (Nikki M. Mascali)

July 25, 2018

Nikki M. Mascali, Metro New York

It happens to us all: You’re in front of multi-colored garbage cans with refuse and asking what can be confusing questions: Is this recyclable? Regular trash? Am I killing the environment? Does separating really matter? To help you sort, pun intended, all that out, it might be time you visit the Bryant Park “compost concierge.”

“We noticed there is quite a bit of refuse in the park, and we wanted to make it easy for people,” said Kati Solomon, director of operations at Bryant Park. “We don’t think that recycling is always sorted easily without help, partly because the system confuses people, so we came up with this ‘compost concierge’ idea, where this person is here to help you sort.”

The compost concierge is onsite near the northwest edge of Bryant Park for peak lunchtime hours every Monday through Friday from 12:30-2:30 p.m., when there typically is between 3,000 to 5,000 visitors, Solomon said.

Since Bryant Park began the compost concierge program last winter, “we were able to get a giant can reduced to what was actually garbage, not recycling paper, recycling plastic, metal, bottles or compost,” Solomon said. “We’ve been surprised that there’s a lot of packaging that could be recycled.”

“I would say 70 percent of people coming by are asking questions about what they can do, so we’ve been really surprised, happily surprised, that having a person always with the compost bin has helped get the misinformation sorted out,” Solomon said.

Nearby businesses that would hold onto or freeze their compost to take to a Department of Sanitation food scrap drop-off site once a month now bring those materials to Bryant Park, which is part of DSNY’s curbside organics collection route.

“The activities that are happening here at Bryant Park are feeding into a larger program that we’re trying to develop to better incorporate community scale and neighborhood scale food-waste diversion into our citywide curbside infrastructure,” said Tal Zaken, DSNY’s senior coordinator of organics outreach. “We have a goal of sending no waste to landfills by 2030, it’s an ambitious goal, and this is a major part of that. More than one-third of New Yorkers’ waste is made up of the material that we’re collecting today.”

This initiative is in the process of rolling out to a number of other partnerships across the city, Zaken said.