Adams proposes NYC’s first composting mandate
Image courtesy of the Department of Sanitation
For the first time ever, New York City residents will be required to separate their organic waste from their other garbage or face fines. Mayor Eric Adams on Monday proposed NYC’s first composting mandate, a new policy that will require New Yorkers with yards to separate yard waste, which are biodegradable materials like leaves, flowers, twigs, and grass clippings, into a separate bin for pickup by the NYC Department of Sanitation. Residents who fail to do so will have to pay fines similar to the penalties for failing to recycle properly.
Under the new program, composting yard waste would be required for eight months of the year, spanning from March to July and from September to November. It would not be mandated during the peak of summer and winter, though it will still be collected all year.
The Queens mandate will most likely take effect in June, according to The New York Times. Brooklyn’s mandate will take effect on October 2, 2023, The Bronx and Staten Island’s mandate will take effect on March 25, 2024, and Manhattan’s will begin on October 7, 2024, according to DSNY records.
DSNY will instate a three-month education and warning period in each borough before residents get ticketed for violations. Fines will range in costs similar to those of failing to recycle, which currently range from $25 for a first-time offense to $400 for a third-time offense for residential buildings with nine or more units.
“Yard waste is the right place to start because it’s something New Yorkers already naturally separate,” Jessica Tisch, Commissioner of DSNY, told the New York Times. “There’s no real behavioral change required, and I think you have to ease into these mandates.”
The new yard waste policy will take effect over the course of the next 18 months as the city simultaneously rolls out its voluntary curbside composting program across the five boroughs. The voluntary program’s expansion follows its success in Queens last fall.
Queens’ popular voluntary compost program resumes operation in the borough on Monday, encouraging residents of all Queens residential buildings to put their food waste, yard waste, and food-soiled paper in a DSNY compost bin to be picked up weekly.
In just three months after it kicked off in October 2022, the Queens program collected over 12.7 million pounds of organic waste, proving that New Yorkers are eager to dispose of their food and yard waste in a sustainable manner. Tisch attributed the program’s success to the loosening of restrictions on the types of bins that are eligible for usage, as well as the automatic enrollment of residents in the program.
Though Queens residents were not mandated to take part in the program, eight of 14 Queens districts disposed of more compost than the previous opt-in program’s best-performing district, Brooklyn District 6, had. Brooklyn District 6, which encompasses Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill, has been participating in compost programs for nearly a decade.
Queens District 12, which is made up of Hollis, Jamaica, Springfield Gardens, and St. Albans, had not previously participated in opt-in compost programs. However, over the course of the Queens compost program, the district disposed of more compost than all the seven districts in the previous program disposed of combined.
In April 2022, NYC lawmakers called for the city to instate a mandatory citywide compost program at residential buildings. The program would apply to all residential buildings and expand to all residences by June 2023. Pickup of organic waste would be scheduled to begin by the middle of 2023.
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