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Rikers Island Food Waste Composting Facility
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what is rikers island
why sanitation established a composting site at rikers island
the composting process at rikers island

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Rikers Island compost facility features a translucent photovoltaic panel roofing systemWhat Is Rikers Island

Rikers Island is the site of one of the world's largest correctional institutions, whose ten detention centers house approximately 20,000 inmates and guards. This complex generates between thirty and forty tons of food waste daily.

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Why Sanitation Established a Composting Site at Rikers Island

Because all food preparation takes place in cafeterias, all scraps and spoiled food can very easily be segregated as a separate, uncontaminated organic waste stream. The presence of so much organic waste, concentrated in a small area, prompted DSNY and the New York City Department of Correction to collaborate on an innovative project to collect and compost this material at an indoor plant designed expressly for this purpose.

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The Composting Process at Rikers Island Rikers Island concrete bays

DSNY constructed and began operating the model composting facility in 1996. The technology employed for composting has been in use for many years to process sewage sludge; this is one of the first times it has been applied to recycle high volumes of food waste.

Incoming waste is blended with wood chips and loaded into two long, concrete bays. Special agitating equipment is used to mix the material and move it through the bays as it decomposes. After twenty days, when the blend reaches the other end of the bays, it has decomposed sufficiently to be placed outdoors without causing odor problems, in windrows similar to those used in leaf composting. After several months of curing, the compost is screened to remove any remaining wood chips as well as contaminants such as plastic forks. The finished compost is used primarily on Rikers Island for landscaping and inmate gardening projects.

All air in the facility is pumped through a biofiltration system to prevent the release of odors, and the building is kept under negative air pressure at all times to prevent odors from escaping without filtration. In addition, the facility features the world's largest installation of a translucent photovoltaic panel roofing system. These solar panels, installed with funding from the New York Power Authority, provide 40 kilowatts of power to the facility.

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