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City Reboots Organics Recycling

Second chance. After a rocky rollout that began in 2013 and was abruptly cut short last year by the coronavirus pandemic, the city’s Department of Sanitation is rebooting its curbside organics recycling program. Residents of co-ops and condos will now get another opportunity to cut greenhouse gas emissions by sending their organic waste — eggshells, coffee grounds, chicken bones, grass clippings and such — to composting centers rather than to landfills, which are major generators of ozone-depleting methane.


Cost-free. Organics account for about one-third of the city’s residential waste, and diverting them to composting centers will help the city take a major step toward its goal of eliminating all shipments to landfills. Under the program, buildings receive brown bins after signing up, which they can do by calling 311 or visiting The bins, which have latching lids to repel vermin, are picked up once a week by Sanitation Department trucks — at no charge to the building owner. 


Approval required. In multi-family buildings, including co-ops and condos, the sign-up process has certain protocols. “For buildings with 10 or more units, individual residents or tenants cannot enroll their building,” says Allie Gumas, the outreach coordinator for curbside composting at the Sanitation Department. “If someone tries, we circle back. We need the approval of the co-op or condo board, the property manager, the super or someone with decision-making capabilities.”

By the numbers. The original rollout hit a speed bump in late 2018, when the Sanitation Department halted expansion of the program, saying low participation rates had led to high costs. Recycling organics was about six times more expensive than sending garbage to landfills. Kathryn Garcia, then sanitation commissioner, conceded that the program also faced a formidable psychological hurdle with the public: the “ick” factor. This time around, the Department of Sanitation is hoping to boost participation and lower costs, and enthusiasm for the second coming of organics recycling is running high. “Everyone in the department is thrilled to have it back,” Gumas says.

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