Concerns over city's new composting pilot program
by Andrew Shilling
Jun 30, 2014 | 10211 views | 0 0 comments | 207 207 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents ask questions about the pilot program.
Residents ask questions about the pilot program.
Slowly but surely, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has been expanding its new composting program throughout the city, dropping off the new brown bins to schools and homes throughout the five boroughs.

Based on a near identical recycling program found in Toronto, which reported 439,222 tons of residential waste diverted from landfills in 2013, New York City's pilot program is using a similar structure that is now being phased out in that Canadian city.

With many New York City residents concerned about attracting rodents, as well as the smell and cleanliness, the answer to their issues might be found in the very place where the pilot was birthed.

Vincent Sferrazza, acting general manager of the Solid Waste Management Services for the City of Toronto, said the city is currently looking towards developing a new, and more secure system of recycling to better prevent rodents and wild animals from compromising their bins.

“One of the biggest concerns we hear about are raccoons,” Sferrazza said. “The raccoons have become smart enough to open them, so if the latch isn’t as strong as it used to be, then they can open it.”

In response, Toronto is now working on vehicles with automated collection and stronger bins to replace the current system.

“For efficiency of collection, a mechanism on the truck will collect the waste,” he explained. “We then would need a bin to work with the automated trucks.”

A request for proposals recently closed and the submissions are in for the new bins, which could be on the streets in Toronto by as early as 2016, according to Sferrazza.

“They’re looking for a company to develop that bin with a special release mechanism,” he said.

In New York City, the composting pilot program began in numerous schools on the Upper West Side of Manhattan back in 2012, and now two years later includes selected neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

Today there are nearly 100,000 homes participating in the pilot. It recently expanded to include Community Board 5 in Queens, which includes the neighborhoods of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood.

Lisa Brunie-McDermott, program director with DSNY, met with several residents at a town hall meeting last week at St. Pancras Church on 68th Street in Glendale.

“When NYC runs a pilot program, it’s the size of other small cities running a program for their entire municipality,” Brunie-McDermott said. “It’s a huge, massive undertaking and we are still working to educate the residents and make the program as best as we can, and we’re trying to work out things now as a pilot.”

She said the neighborhoods were chosen based on the demographics, including “a lot of single-family homes, a lot of backyards,” as well as the recycling rates.

“We wanted to start in neighborhoods we thought would be good at participating based on recycling rates,” she said. “We’re also trying to get a diverse piece of the housing structure of New York City.”

By the fall of 2014, Brunie-McDermott said the program will have expanded to nearly half of the schools in the city.

“We hope that working with schools we can educate the students and they can take it home and teach their parents,” she said.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo hosted the town hall with DSNY following numerous complaints from residents concerned about the smell and rodents.

“Our residents are having some concerns over the program,” Addabbo said at the meeting.

As far as rodents, Brunie-McDermott suggested that composting might in fact reduce the amount of wildlife.

“New York City is one of the only cities that allows black bags of trash on the curbs, every other city uses containers,” she said. “Every night we’re essentially giving rodents and rats a free meal because they can easily open those bags, but now by separating food waste into the brown bins, it helps eliminate that food source.”

Dorie Figliola, a staff member for Assemblyman Mike Miller, runs the Glendale Community Garden and says she hopes the initiative will get the rest of the neighborhood on board.

“This is the same as when we started recycling the plastic and the paper, they were all against that,” Figliola said. “We’re just going back in time and it will ultimately be better for the earth. People will get used to it.”

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