Organics collection is soon coming to a neighborhood near you.
The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) announced last Thursday that it will expand its curbside collection of food scraps, food-soiled papers and yard waste by 2018.
Nearly 1 million New York City residents already participate in the program. By the end of 2017, DSNY officials hope to collect organic waste from 3.3 million residents.
“We know that your food waste can be either an energy source or can become compost,” said DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “It’s important for a variety of reasons, not only to achieve our zero-waste goals. One of the key contributors to greenhouse gases is methane from landfills.”
Garcia said she sees organic waste as a resource. Turning it into compost helps nourish soils and plants by changing the structure of the soil, maintaining the proper pH and eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.
DSNY made the announcement at La Casita Verde, a community garden in Williamsburg that receives compost through the city’s program. Garden founder Brooke Singer said there are many benefits to composting, including using the fresh soil to help tree pits and grow vegetables.
“It reduces the greenhouse gas emissions, both in the trucking of the material out of the city,” she said, and “food rotting in a landfill causes methane, which is a bad greenhouse gas.
“We recycle our plastics and we know that’s the right thing to do,” Singer added. “Food scraps are next in line.”
In May, residents living within Community Board 1, which covers Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and Community Board 16, representing Brownsville and Ocean Hill, will be included in the program.
By June, the organics program will expand to many Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, Coney Island and Gravesend, and Sheepshead Bay.
By the end of the fall, DSNY said the service will be available neighborhoods across Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, in communities like Long Island City, Flushing, Jamaica and Far Rockaway.
“It spreads the gamut of all of the different diverse neighborhoods of this city,” Garcia said.
The Sanitation Department will deliver brown bins, an indoor kitchen container, and an instruction brochure to all single-family homes and buildings with nine or fewer residential units, which are automatically enrolled in the program.
Large developments and high-rises can also opt to participate by registering on the DSNY website.
Once a week, sanitation workers will collect organics at the curb. Residents can put food scraps, fruits and vegetables and even bones into the bin. Organics also includes soiled papers like towels and napkins, and yard waste, such as leaves and small sticks.
The collected material is taken to regional facilities where it’s turned into compost. It’s then taken to greening groups, such as urban farmers, community gardens and street tree stewards.
Garcia acknowledged that some participants had concerns about vermin and rats getting into the food scraps. She assured that the brown bins come with latches and will keep them out.
“One of the things we’re doing is taking that dinner for the vermin or rats out of that black bag and putting it into something that is contained and they can’t get into,” she said. “We have not had complaints about raccoons getting into them either.”
To date, DSNY has collected more than 23,000 tons of organics from city residents. Its organics collection program is already the largest in the country and is set to expand dramatically within the next year.
“We think this is the right direction for the city of New York,” Garcia said.
Pamela Pettyjohn, who leads the Coney Island Beautification Project, said she’s been waiting for the organics program to come to her neighborhood.
With more than 50,000 residents living in a three-block radius of the peninsula and 5,000 more units to come, Pettyjohn said the program will be “wonderful” for Coney Island.
“That’s a lot of garbage,” she said. “As a Brooklyn urban gardener, we know this compost is black gold. We need it for our plantings, for our food.”
Councilman Stephen Levin, who represents two community boards that will soon get composting services, hailed the program as “revolutionary.”
“You think about the power of 8.5 million people’s organic garbage, capturing the methane and turning it into energy,” Levin said. “Composting is cool, it’s easy and it’s the way to go.”