Friends of the High Line will be taking their composting program to a new level using cutting-edge technology to compost in only 14 days. The Rocket composter technology allows for a continuous process of feeding it daily while constantly aerating the mass inside the vessel, producing high enough temperatures to kill pathogens. Gerardo Soto, managing director at Food Waste Experts explains, “Imagine thousands of microorganisms eating at a buffet, where food waste, garden waste and wood chips are moving along the in vessel while the microorganism pick and choose their preferred menu. The microorganisms don’t move; it’s too hot or too cold to move to the next phase. Their main goal is to eat as much as possible, converting the input into compost. That is why the Rocket composter can be that efficient composting in only two weeks.”
Friends of the High Line compost program began in 2010 as an effort to practice sustainable horticulture, reduce costs and create a high-quality product. The High Line gardens produce about 490 cubic yards of waste per year. Last year they were able to process 80% of that waste into 72 cubic yards of compost.
They are currently running two bins on a forced air system alongside their traditional bin system, which allows them to have more range and flexibility in their composting. The current bin system requires that the piles be manually turned in order to add water and expose the microbial community to oxygen. The hands on approach allows for adjustments and inspection of the piles during their active phase. It also allows them to experiment with different carbon and/or nitrogen inputs all on a relatively small scale. Since 2013 they have been using their compost to brew an aerated liquid biological amendment, or “compost tea,” and applying this product throughout their amazing gardens.
Andi Pettis, director of horticulture for Friends of the High Line, comments “We are especially excited about the Rocket Composter’s ability to regulate and record temperatures because recent research suggests that excessive heat may kill off some of the beneficial microorganisms we want in our soils.” She continues, “The rocket will help us optimize our composting initiative and allow us to create a streamlined, net zero, green waste system and achieve a more consistent final product that can be applied directly to the gardens or used to inoculate our compost tea.”
The A900 Rocket composter model will be housed inside a container at the cross of 14th street and 11th av. There are hundreds of apartment buildings, businesses and people walking through the The High Line, which probably will never know that it is possible to compost at a commercial level in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.