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City Finally Makes Curbside Organics Recycling Mandatory

Bill Morris in Green Ideas on June 12, 2023

New York City

Organics recycling, city council, co-op and condo boards, landfills, greenhouse gases.
June 12, 2023

Food scraps and yard waste are finally being added to the list of items — glass and plastic, paper and cardboard — that New Yorkers are required to recycle.

A veto-proof majority of the city council has approved citywide curbside pickup of organic waste under a bill sponsored by council member Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn), Crain's reports. The program will gradually roll out across the boroughs, beginning with Brooklyn and Queens this October. The Bronx and Staten Island will follow in March 2024, and finally Manhattan that October. The effort will affect all of the city’s residents except the roughly 400,000 people who live in federally-supported public housing complexes.

The mandatory program will make brown bins a fixture in city life. It comes as Mayor Eric Adams’ administration works to phase in a voluntary citywide composting program. Currently, the program is limited to Queens with an expansion planned to Brooklyn this October, but climate advocates have long pushed for a mandatory system to achieve widespread participation and make it more financially feasible.

Organic material, including food scraps and yard waste, makes up roughly one-third of the five boroughs’ residential waste, according to the city. Composting more of those materials — instead of sending them to landfills, where they generate the greenhouse gas methane — is key to the goal of shrinking New York’s carbon footprint to net zero by 2050.

New York has trailed other major U.S. cities that have, for years, mandated composting of their citizens. San Francisco became the first city to offer a major food-scrap collection program in 1996. Now it’s mandatory for residents of that city, as well as in Los Angeles and Seattle.

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