Composting Returns to North Brooklyn
By Dispatch Editors on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021 at 3:26 pm
The brown bins are back.
Curbside composting is returning to Brooklyn this fall. Select neighborhoods are now eligible for brown bins to participate in the program, and the new bins have been delivered in many neighborhoods already.
The brown bins come in several sizes based on the type and size of the building.
Soon to be former Mayor Bill de Blasio had promised to make curbside composting mandatory, but like the vast majority of his policy promises, cut the curbside recycling program instead. (His lack of accomplishments might explain why he’s dead last in the race for governor).
Composting was a program launched by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s administration ran a pilot for composting back 2012 beginning in Staten Island, and had plans for handling 100,000 tons of food scraps per year.
Before de Blasio cancelled the composting program, it was diverting 2% of the city’s trash away from landfills. Only 10% of eligible households participated in the voluntary program.
Once again, composting is not mandatory. And for multi-unit apartment buildings, even where tenants want to participate, there is no mandate to requiring landlords to request and provide the free, brown bins.
Without mandatory compliance or fees for collection of landfill-bound household trash, it seems unlikely the composting efforts will achieve any of the stated goals.
Waste collection from public and private haulers in the city costs more than $2.3 billion annually.
Residents can sign up for brown bins for curside pickup if they are in participating neighborhoods. Greenpoint and Williamsburg are included in the program.
Notably absent from the program is Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Crown Heights and other parts of southeast Brooklyn.
New York City’s trash continues to be a major problem. Rats have increasingly been visible but their larger numbers go back to before the pandemic. Nevertheless, the rats are getting worse, and more visible.
Trash is a major contributor to growing rat populations, but New York City has long had a poor record of dealing with the trash problem.
Trash has piled up in some neighborhoods as some sanitation workers refused to get a vaccination from the deadly COVID virus. Other trash strikes, like one in 1975, also led to piles of garbage on the streets.
None of this explains though why New York City doesn’t have a better system for handling trash more generally. Trash is required to be placed in black plastic trash bags and then piled on the curb for collection. Unfortunately, this does little keep rodents out of the waste.
Not only are rats easily able to get into plastic bags, but huge mounds of trash bags line the sidewalks, often blocking pedestrian access.
In 2020, a proposal to help move some trash into containers on the street has gone nowhere.
The concept was to have containers for buildings with 300 or more units placed street side, with the city refusing to collect trash not in those bins. The containers would keep out vermin. Like many other programs under the de Blasio administration, its gone nowhere.
At the same time, litter cans around the city started disappearing. Literally hundreds of cans have been removed, and not surprisingly, the trash simply collected on the streets.
Composting can help with all these problems. Composting bins are secure, rather than including the edible waste in flimsy plastic bags that vermin easily eat through.
The program also reduces landfill waste — meaning fewer bags sitting curbside. And with composting, the city could save millions in fees paid to bury our waste.
Another savings could be in less wasted food. Seoul, South Korea, for instance has made sending food scraps to the landfill illegal, and the policy has led to decreased food waste.
The curbside compost program should begin by November 29 in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.