Composting and food waste: How is Cortland doing?

David Hammon runs his hand through one of his composting piles at his home in McGraw (Photo: Provided)

CORTLAND, N.Y.— A fruitful and expansive garden sits in the backyard of McGraw resident David Hammon’s home. What drives the life of this garden is his composting project, which he brought to life nearly a decade ago.

His efforts in composting began as a way to enhance his rocky garden area, but now he contributes to the waste reduction in his community with his composting operation, utilizing coffee grounds from local business Coffee Mania.

“I’ve contacted them about getting their coffee grounds and they’re all for it—I’ve gotten several loads of it with my pickup truck,” Hammon says.

David Hammon's backyard in McGraw

In doing this, Coffee Mania and Hammon are helping to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Hammon believes Cortland County needs a composting program for residents.

“If all that [food waste] was taken somewhere, instead of taken to a landfill where it will create other problems, they could use it around city grounds for mulching,” he says.

However, when it comes to food waste, the City of Cortland Department of Public Works, located at 19 Franklin Street, does not currently have a food waste program for residents or establishments.

“We have been investigating some different avenues to utilize food scrap recycling, but we do not have a program in place at the moment,” says Nick Dovi, deputy superintendent for the city’s public works department.

The Department of Public Works does, however, accept garden and yard waste and has revamped the original site to provide more security, new signage, and more space for people to utilize the facility.

In comparison to some neighboring counties, Cortland is lacking in its food waste and recycling programs. Tompkins County residents are provided free food scrap recycling through P&S Excavating and Cayuga Compost. This service provides several drop-off locations, information about composting, and free compostable bags at each location. Similarly, Onondaga County’s OCRRA Amboy Compost Site equips residents with two different locations to drop off food waste, as well as household toxics and textiles.

Despite the lack of a curbside pickup program for food waste, residents of Cortland County can still be eco-friendly and follow in the footsteps of David Hammon by creating a home composting site. If that’s not in your wheelhouse, there are online sharing services such as ShareWaste. Originating in Australia, the website links those with compost pits to those who are looking to discard their food waste.

Hammon has signed up for the service and says there is a “mutual understanding” between both parties that composting will help reduce the volume of landfills and ultimately better the environment and their community.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC) of SUNY Cortland, which provides local college students with dining services and vending products, dispose their food waste at the county landfill. We have learned that the company composts its food waste. We apologize and regret the error.