Mayor Eric Adams signed off on a huge curbside composting program in Queens set to start this October. The program is a climate change initiative for all homes in the borough, including NYCHA residents.

“This will make New York City home to the largest curbside composting program in the nation,” said Adams in Monday’s presser on Aug. 8.

The composting program has been suspended in the past. On May 4, 2020, former Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the composting program and curbside pickup of hazardous materials would be discontinued due to sanitation budget cuts and the COVID-19 crisis. Residents were encouraged to hold onto their brown bins or make their own compost in the meantime.

Adams said the goal was to bring the program back in a more equitable and cost-efficient way. The new program will include all leaf and yard waste as well as all food scraps and food-soiled paper products, such as napkins, paper towels, and unlined plates. Unlike past composting programs, there is no sign-up required for the new program, said Adams. 

Queens in particular “produces significant amounts of leaf and yard waste” and has about 41% of New York City’s street trees, said the Mayor’s Office. It was also selected for the pilot program because of its large geographic area, diversity of communities, and housing stock. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards joked that it was a “historic” day to “talk trash in Queens.” Richards said that immediate and decisive action to combat climate change is necessary, and he’s excited for the program to begin.

“We’re taking all that composting material and turning it into rich soil for plants that soak up carbon dioxide as they grow. It can also be used to produce renewable energy and from a discarded apple core or falling leaves that would normally go into the garbage, we can now use it to improve our environment,” said Adams. “I have a composting bin right on my countertop at the office and at Gracie Mansion.”

The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner Jessica Tisch said that the compost will be turned into soil at the city’s Staten Island compost facility, which produces soil packs year round for the parks department, community groups, and landscapers.
In an effort to address the city’s rat problem, Adams and DSNY also moved to add 250 smart composting bins to parts of Northern Manhattan, the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn and Staten island. 

Rats often feed on organic material in trash bags on the curb. Composting bins are more secure and make waste more difficult to get to for the rats, said the Mayor’s Office. Adams said the bins have been successful in pilot programs, so they’re adding more than the previous commitment of bins in a permanent fashion.  

“Today that organic material goes in the black trash bags where it’s commingled with all the other household trash and it sits on the curbs, serving, as we’ve said before, an all-you-can-eat buffet for rats,” said Tisch. “Adding more insult to injury, it then gets landfilled, where the material decomposes and produces harmful methane gas for years to come. The new program that we’re announcing today changes all of that.”

Tisch said that the program is designed to “rat-proof” and cut down on toxic greenhouse gasses.

“If you don’t order a bin from us, no issue; you can use any bin that you want. We just ask that the bin have a lid to keep out the rats,” said Tisch.

Weekly service starts Oct. 3 and runs through December. DSNY said they will automatically send bins and bags to buildings with 10 or more apartments.  

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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