Philly is turning discarded hamburgers, chicken salad, lettuce into tons of compost

Frank Kummer, Updated 

A large pile of compost at a city-owned facility was steaming one day last week, the result of heat produced by millions of microbes feeding on food waste from city rec centers.

The newly operational facility on Rising Sun Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia is the result of plans laid before the pandemic to turn tons of food waste generated at the city’s 156 recreation centers into free compost for registered community gardens.

Rec centers serve meals during programs for children and the elderly. Each center generates nearly a ton of food waste each year, officials estimate. Though the compost facility, which is not open to the public, started accepting waste in November, the material is just now turning into usable soil.

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