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Organics Recyling Expands – Into Pricey Neighborhoods

New York City

Organics recycling, DSNY, opt-in signups, co-ops and condos.
Nov. 1, 2021

When the city rebooted its curbside pickup of organic waste last month, we reported that the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) staff was "overwhelmed by the positive response." Now, as the rollout expands based on neighborhood interest, it's becoming apparent that that interest is tied to the income levels of residents. A breakdown of signups showed that many well-off areas of the city like brownstone Brooklyn and leafy Riverdale in the Bronx topped the sign-up list while low-income sections like the South Bronx had very few registrations, amNY reports.

Advocates such as former Sanitation Commissioner and mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia have pushed for a citywide universal program rather than the current opt-in approach, warning that the latter would turn composting into a “luxury” available only for New Yorkers who have the resources and the will to organize community support.

DSNY relaunched its dormant curbside composting collection program in Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 neighborhoods (Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus) on Oct. 4, where more addresses signed up for the opt-in program than in any other part of the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio paused organics pickups in May 2020 due to the pandemic, and initially didn’t plan to relaunch it until after he leaves office in 2022. But following pressure from politicians, environmentalists and neighborhood activists, he announced the brown bins would return this fall on a voluntary basis.

New York’s Strongest will start collecting organic waste – egg shells, coffee grounds, yard waste and such – from brown bins starting this week in the neighborhoods in Brooklyn’s Community Board 7, which includes Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace, along with Manhattan Community Boards 6 and 7, which cover areas on the Eastside of Midtown and the Upper West Side.

Another round of service expansion is slated for Nov. 29, in the Bronx’s Community Board 8 (Kingsbridge, Riverdale), and Brooklyn community boards 1 (Williamsburg, Greenpoint), and 2 (Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and Fort Greene), according to DSNY.

The department is rolling out pickups based on the number of people who signed up and their concentration in a given area to allow for efficient truck routes, but the agency noted there is no “magic number” of registrations that will trigger service. Increasing efficiency of truck routes is a key to bringing down the program's cost.

Buildings can sign up online here or by calling 311. DSNY has stated that if co-ops or condos want to join the program, a board member or property manager – not an individual resident – must sign up.

Organic waste accounts for about one-third of the city’s residential waste, roughly 1 million tons a year, and the vast majority of it is still being sent to landfills, where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas. This presents a huge challenge to a city that has announced its intention to eliminate all shipments to landfills by the year 2030. Recycled organics are sent to composting centers, where they're turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer.

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