This New York Compost Box (far left) encourages people to fight "Herban Decay" by composting their organic waste.

New York City has some new newspaper boxes. But the bright yellow boxes don’t hold the latest news, they hold compostable materials.

Dubbed New York Compost Boxes, the project is the brainchild of Debbie Ullman, a master composter and former designer at the New York Daily News, who combined her interests into an easy way for New Yorkers to dispose of organic waste.

There are sealed bins inside the decommissioned newspaper boxes and each day the contents are picked up and taken to composting sites. The following organics are all allowed in the boxes:

  • fruit and vegetable scraps
  • coffee grounds, filters, and paper tea bags
  • bread and grains
  • egg shells
  • nuts and shells
  • corncobs
  • food-soiled paper towels and napkins
  • shredded newspaper (but NOT colored or glossy paper)
  • sawdust and wood shavings from untreated wood (NOT pressure-treated or plywood)
  • beans, flour, and spices
  • cut or dried flowers, houseplants and potting soil (make sure they are NOT diseased or insect-infested)

For Ullman, the Compost Boxes are an easy way to spread awareness about composting and reducing food waste in landfills. The New York City Department of Sanitation reports that a third of what New Yorkers throw away is food scraps, so Ullman wants to make composting easy and accessible.

There are currently only three Compost Boxes, but Ullman hopes they demonstrate the potential of local composting solutions.

“I see it as an urban intervention,” Ullman says on the project’s website. “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.”


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Cat Johnson is a content strategist and teacher helping community builders create strong brands. A longtime writer, marketing pro and coworking leader, Cat is the founder of Coworking Convos and