May 22, 2024

Composting for all in New York City – Op-Ed by Mayor Eric Adams

Mayor Eric Adams signs two pieces of legislation to support students with disabilities entering higher education and to reduce the use of single-use plastics. City Hall, February 1, 2023. Credit: Caroline Willis / Mayoral Photo Office
Mayor Eric Adams signs two pieces of legislation to support students with disabilities entering higher education and to reduce the use of single-use plastics. City Hall, February 1, 2023. Credit: Caroline Willis / Mayoral Photo Office

New Yorkers know that rats love trash bags full of food waste. And they know that I hate rats. This week, our Administration declared that Restaurant Week for rats in this City is finally over. 

For too long, New Yorkers have had to bring their compost to neighborhood drop off sites, or deal with one-off collection programs that weren’t designed to reach everyone. This meant mountains of trash bags on our sidewalks, attracting rats day and night. 

New Yorkers have been saying loudly that they want a compost program across the City – they want the rat food out of the black bags and out of the landfills once and for all. For over twenty years, New York City has been trying to achieve citywide curbside composting that actually WORKS for everyone.

We are finally getting it done. By the fall of next year, New Yorkers in all five boroughs will be able to put their yard waste and food scraps out on the curb year-round, in the simplest, easiest, most efficient curbside composting program ever.

No more carrying your banana peels to neighborhood drop off sites or bagging up fall leaves to be thrown in the garbage. New Yorkers across all five boroughs will be able to compost kitchen scraps and yard waste every week on their recycling day. What could be more convenient for us, or more upsetting for the rats?

Starting March 27 of this year, composting service will restart in Queens after a brief winter pause. It will never take a seasonal break again. On October 2, we will roll out a composting in all of Brooklyn, followed by service in Staten Island and the Bronx in March 2024.  And on October 7, 2024, we will expand composting to all of Manhattan, creating the largest citywide composting program in the country.

This is a new, free, universal service for New Yorkers, and we’re making it as easy and straightforward as possible. You can use our Brown Bin or your own bin – no more complicated rules. And you can compost everything from vegetable scraps to coffee grounds and chicken bones. We like to say, “If you cook it or you grow it, you can throw it.”

Our pilot program in Queens kept nearly 13 million pounds of kitchen and yard waste out of our landfills in just three months. That’s more than the weight of 300 city busses! Imagine the impact when we expand that to 8.5 million New Yorkers across all five boroughs.

This is about more than making life easier for families and homeowners – and worse for rats. It’s about improving our environment and quality of life across the board. New York City produces over a million tons of food waste every single year. Right now, we know that 1/3 of all material in our refuse stream is compostable material, which goes to landfill and decomposes over YEARS, releasing harmful methane gas.

Instead, we’re going to capture and use that waste ourselves to make usable soil, biosolids, and renewable energy. Under this new program, some of the material will be composted at our facility on Staten Island and other places around the country; other material will be turned into usable natural gas and biosolids by the Department of Environmental Protection right in Brooklyn.

And all of that compost can be used by New Yorkers to grow healthy food. The soil will return to our parks, planters, and personal gardens. People will be able to pick this up for free. And those who love gardening or growing urban farms can grow fresh, healthy food right here in New York City.

I want to thank everyone who has made this possible, including the Queens residents who led the way, separating their compost and making the pilot program a success.

We are making composting easy in every corner and in every neighborhood in New York City.

This is huge win for cleanliness, a huge win for sustainability, and the environment we all share as New Yorkers. The only ones that lose are those rats.

This opinion article on”Composting for all in New York City” was written by New York City Mayor Eric Leroy Adams

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