On a quiet Friday morning, volunteer Elizabeth Schad jabs her pitchfork into a mound of browning organic material — including things like leaves, peels, and other food scraps — at the Red Hook Community Farm.

Organized into long piles called windrows, the mounds reach about waist-height. They will be turned and heated by a machine even bigger, creating steam and going from smelly scraps to usable compost.

As other volunteers follow suit, donning gloves and plucking shovels from the rack to assist, they ultimately form one piece of a city-wide goal: to have “zero waste” diverted to landfills by 2030. For this to become reality, compost efforts have kicked into high-gear.

“I come here almost every weekend,” said volunteer Elizabeth Schad, 28, who works as a teacher in Brooklyn. “It’s nice to feel like you’re making a difference, little by little.” With climate change concerns on the rise, she is one of many looking to do what they can for the environment.

The Red Hook Community Farm is one of the seven groups funded by the New York City Department of Sanitation in a program called the Compost Project. Working alongside an organic waste collection program, the two initiatives aim to drastically reduce the 14 million tons of waste thrown out each year in New York City.

In the last couple years, there’s been an increase in public interest in composting, said Lia Lucero, part of the staff of the Lower East Side Ecology Center. As one of the nonprofits involved in the Compost Project, they focus on food scrap drop-off sites, where people can bring their leftovers and dump them into one big brown bin.

The center opened a new site in Harlem last year, and this past May, launched a 24/7 drop-off site in East River Park. It was sign-up only, and around 100 people opted for it. With a few drop-off sites around the city like these, the center receives hundreds of pounds in food scraps each week. They are then composted under the Queensboro bridge and used locally at places like community gardens.

“Instead of waste, we should refer to it as a resource,” Lucero said.

Similar sentiments have been expressed by the Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a press release earlier this year. “Organic material make up about a third of what we throw away, but it’s not trash,” she stated. Garcia has played a key role in organizing these groups under the Compost Project, uniting them with other city initiatives that believe residents can both reduce garbage pile-up and put scraps to good use.

This includes the organics collection program, which distributes brown bins for food scraps and is then collected by trucks — just like trash and recycling. The largest program of its kind in the country, it is expected to be available to all New Yorkers by the end of 2018 with an increase of $27.7 million spent.

“Every pound of organics counts,” said Department of Sanitation employee Nicolai Cantir. “I tell my four-year-old daughter that it’s all about what we leave behind. We’ll help future generations by putting it back in the soil instead of landfills.”

In a matter of years, New York will be able to turn this leftover organic material into natural gas, a form of clean, renewable energy. The waste will mostly be sent to third-party facilities, where it will be processed.

The organizations of the Compost Project (which also include the Brooklyn and Queens botanical gardens) work to further the efforts of the Department of Sanitation. As part of the Compost Project, they help make residents aware of this collection program, and have a hand in processing food scraps independent of this program, too. They divide responsibilities geographically, but are able to share resources.

The largest of the nonprofits involved is Big ReUse, who specialize in educating residents (by handing out compost samples, for example) and operating the food scrap drop-off sites in Brooklyn and Queens. Last year, they diverted over one million pounds of organic waste from landfills. According to outreach coordinator Bella Rabinovich, their reach is only growing.

She explained that for some people, it’s almost a ritual — residents will drop off waste before work, or after taking their kids to school. And for newcomers, she likes to watch their excitement. “They say, ‘I’m going to tell my neighbors about this,’ and that enthusiasm really catches on.”

If there’s one thing reducing landfill waste hinges on, it is resident participation.

In addition to getting residents to participate, groups also want them to be able to have resources for sustainability. One of the other nonprofits helping out in the Compost Project is Grow NYC, which operates the Green Markets scattered throughout the city. Since their development in 1970, their reach has included the Union Square Greenmarket and over 60 other sites according to staff member Christina Salvi.

As these nonprofits work to get residents involved and give them access to composting programs, other initiatives try to make their dent in waste reduction too.

Commissioner Garcia made a proposal earlier this year that would dramatically expand the number of businesses (from about 350 to 2,350) that are required to separate their organic waste for pickup, which can be publicly or privately collected.

The Department of Sanitation also hosted the first Food Waste Fair earlier this summer, with over 1,000 people in attendance, in hopes of spreading education and resources.

Former Mayor Bloomberg once declared food waste the “final recycling frontier” when his administration began the organic collection program in 2013. As it continues, other groups are starting to see the power in food waste collection, and the use it can have as compost.

Eventually, the city would also like to use food leftovers to power apartments and buildings, as a process called anaerobic digestion can break waste down into a slurry that can be refined and used as fuel.