New York – Brown plastic waste bins have been arriving in Borough Park and Flatbush this week, part of a citywide effort to step up recycling while minimizing the amount of garbage being discarded.
The lidded, wheeled, latching waste bins will be used to collect organic waste including food scraps, food soiled paper and yard waste, according to the Department of Sanitation.
Organics recycling is currently voluntary and residents in participating areas will also receive a small in-home kitchen collection bin to prompt them to recycle food scraps, which will ultimately be turned into compost.
The program was rolled out on a trial basis by former mayor Michael Bloomberg and has continued to slowly make its way through the five boroughs.
A 2014 video published by Mayor de Blasio’s office showed the mayor and his family taking part in the voluntary program at their Park Slope home, with de Blasio playfully tossing a watermelon rind across the kitchen and into the countertop organics bin while his daughter Chiara explains that recycling organic waste is an easy way to be environmentally conscious.
According to the Department of Sanitation, 31 percent of the waste generated by New York City residents consists of compostable items. The DSNY hopes that all city residents will have access to organic recycling, either curbside or at a nearby drop off site, by the end of 2018.
Organic waste collection will begin on the week of July 2nd in Borough Park and Flatbush. The program has already been rolled out in Williamsburg, where organic pickups take place on residents’ regular recycling days.
City Councilman Chaim Deutsch said that so far residents in his district do not appear to be particularly enamored with the program and that the only comments he has heard from his constituents have been negative ones.
“People feel like they already have enough recycling to do with cans and paper and now they have to deal with organics as well?” Deutsch told VIN News. “It is very important to protect the environment but recycling is becoming a full time job.”
Deutsch also expressed concern that putting out food scraps, even in sealed containers, could create issues for residents.
“If an animal turns over a container or chews through it, we could have serious rodent problems,” said Deutsch.
But City Councilman Brad Lander, who pushed hard for a plastic bag tax that proved extremely unpopular in the Jewish community and ultimately failed, said that in the four years that he has been participating in the optional program he has found it to be convenient and hassle-free.
“It’s so easy once you get used to it,” observed Lander. “I think when people hear composting they think of having a compost bin in their backyard but that isn’t what this is about. People are already throwing out food waste; this is just doing it in a different container.”
Asked if he thought putting food scraps outside in containers would bring rodents to the city, “People are already putting food scraps out in their trash bags and the brown bin with a clip is much more secure than garbage bags,” noted Lander. “Animals do eat their way through trash bags but I have not seen any animals eating their way into these bins yet.”
In addition to being a green initiative, Lander estimated that the program could save the city millions in trash disposal fees. Lander said that he was not aware of any plans to make organics recycling mandatory in New York City but that so far while not all neighborhoods were embracing the project, he felt the trial was going well in areas that were.
“Once you start doing it you see how possible it is to recycle most of your food waste and the people that do it feel really good about it,” said Lander.
Riverdale resident Wendy Levinson said that she looks forward to the day that the Department of Sanitation brings organic recycling to her area.
“I try to separate organic waste but now we have to freeze it and take it to a collection site in the neighborhood which is very inconvenient,” said Levinson. “Our shul also applied for organic waste collection but we were told we were not in the current zone and need to wait for the next roll out.”