Mandatory Curbside Composting Expands to Brooklyn
New York City’s curbside composting program is coming to all five boroughs before the end of 2024. Mandatory curbside composting recently started in Brooklyn with collections on Oct. 2. The service will be automatic, guaranteed, free, and year-round.
NYC is in the process of implementing the nation’s largest compost collection program. It began as a pilot program in Queens, and in just three months of the pilot program, it prevented 12.7 million pounds of yard and food waste from reaching landfills. In January, the mayor announced that the program would expand citywide and be complete by the end of 2024.
To be as effective as possible, however, the program won’t be a voluntary measure. This past summer, the City Council passed the Zero Waste Act, which included Local Law 85, sponsored by Councilmember Shahana Hanif, making curbside composting mandatory as it rolls out across the city over the next year.
Yard waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper constitute 34 percent of all residential waste in New York City, and reducing waste sent to landfills is a vital part of the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. When organic waste ends up in landfills, it decomposes and produces methane gas, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In addition, according to the city, this program will bring the city the closer to getting rid of the rats on the streets by taking away food scraps from trash bags that often spill over into streets and sidewalks. Instead of creating more landfill trash, food scraps will be separated, contained from rodents, and turned into renewable energy, biosolids, and compost.
Which Boroughs Are Next?
The mandatory composting program will expand to the Bronx and Staten Island next, on March 25, 2024. And on Oct. 7, 2024, the program will encompass Manhattan as the final borough.
What to Compost
Under the program, DSNY will pick up all leaf and yard waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper. This includes meat, bones, dairy, prepared foods, and greasy uncoated paper plates and pizza boxes. You can’t compost trash such as diapers, personal hygiene products, animal waste, wrappers, non-paper packaging, and foam products. And don’t compost otherwise recyclable materials.
Mandatory Source Separation Rules
DSNY has officially updated rules for mandatory source separation of organic waste. As a result, leaf and yard waste separation from trash is now mandatory. Also, the separation of food waste and food-soiled paper from trash is now mandatory. The warning period for Brooklyn and all boroughs as service expands runs through spring 2025.
Plastic bags. DSNY’s final rule allows for the use of plastic bags for the disposal of designated yard waste. The rule clarifies that yard waste can’t be commingled with organics if yard waste is set out in paper or plastic bags. Previously, yard waste wasn’t allowed to be disposed in plastic bags, and there was no rule regulating whether yard waste and organics could be commingled.
The final rule adds specific details on bags for yard waste. The bags are a minimum of 13 and a maximum of 55 gallons in capacity; clear and not colored; and constructed of low-density polyethylene or linear low-density polyethylene. Also, designated yard waste commingled with designated organic waste may not be placed out for collection in plastic bags.
Designated storage area. Owners of buildings with four or more units must provide a pre-collection storage area and clearly labeled bins for the collection of yard and organic waste. If a reasonably accessible storage space isn’t available in the building, and such space is available behind the building’s property line, DSNY says the space behind the property line may be designated for the pre-collection storage of designated materials. But, if designated materials are collected at individual dwelling units or at accessible locations other than the designated storage area, the pre-collection storage area doesn’t need to be accessible to building residents.
Owners also are required to maintain the storage area and store yard waste and organic waste so as not to create a nuisance or sanitary problem. And owners must provide a sufficient number of containers in each storage area so as to prevent spillover from containers and to avoid the improper disposal of yard and organic waste.
Penalties. The penalties for failing to properly sort out organic waste will be the same penalties for failing to properly sort out recycling materials. Residential buildings with fewer than nine dwelling units will get $25 for the first fine, $50 for the second, and $100 for every subsequent fine within a period of 12 months. Residential buildings with nine units or more can face fines of $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second violation, and $400 for the third violation. Until April 1, 2025, however, the first violation will result in only a warning.
How to Compost
Compost will be picked up on your recycling day. In applicable boroughs, you can set out your leaf and yard waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper at the curb inside any labeled bin with a secure lid or in a DSNY brown compost bin. Remember that all food waste must be placed in a bin with a secure lid. You can mix food waste with leaf and yard waste only when using a bin with a secure lid.
The bins should have a capacity of 55 gallons or less and tight lids. You can line the bin with any bag to help keep your bins clean. You can order free orange food waste decals for composting bins and composting signage from the DSNY at https://sanitation.my.site.com/recyclingmaterialsrequest under the “residents” tab.
Although you can’t place bags of food waste directly on the curb, extra leaf and yard waste can be put in a paper lawn and leaf bag or clear plastic bag. And twigs and branches can be bundled with twine and placed next to bins and bags.