NYC lawmakers call for mandatory citywide compost program at residential buildings

April 29, 2022

Photo courtesy of the Department of Sanitation

A bill introduced in the New York City Council on Thursday calls for the creation of a mandatory citywide composting program at residential buildings. Under the legislation, sponsored by Council Member Shahana Hanif, New Yorkers would be required to separate organic waste from other waste for curbside collection. Pickup of organic waste from residential buildings would begin by the middle of 2023.

The compost pickup initiative would apply to all residential buildings and extend to all residences by June 2023, with the exception of public housing residences. According to Hanif, a universal compost program could eliminate nearly a third of the city’s landfill waste and cut billions of metric tons of greenhouse gases.

As The City reported, approximately 68 percent of waste could be kept from landfills if all New Yorkers recycled and composted correctly.

“Almost ten years after the first composting program began in New York City, I am so proud to be introducing legislation to bring this essential program to every neighborhood in our City,” Hanif said in a statement. “Composting is good for our environment, and economy, and its expansion to every corner of our City is long overdue.”

The legislation would also require the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to educate and inform New Yorkers on the importance of composting,  its effects on the environment, and the best ways to separate waste.

In a report published this week, the city’s Independent Budget Office estimates that the program would cost DSNY an additional $39 million for the first three years, have them break even in the fourth year, and save the city $33 million every year after.

It remains unclear whether the bill will have Mayor Eric Adams’ support. In his February preliminary budget, the mayor proposed suspending the existing organic waste pickup program. In his $99.7 billion budget released this week, Adams added $17.9 million to expand food waste drop-off sites at city schools, with the entire school system expected to be part of the program over the next two years.

The bill has garnered support from multiple members of the council, including Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

“The New York City Council has a history of advancing local laws for successful environmental policies and programs that have become global examples of responsible leadership,” Speaker Adams said. “This Council will continue to build on that record of promoting sustainability, reducing pollution, and protecting the environment.”

The idea of New York City mandating compost pickup is not new. In 2013, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to mandate the recycling of organic waste during his mayoral campaign, but abandoned the idea due to budgetary concerns, according to Politico.

When former Council Member Corey Johnson made a bid for mayor in 2021, one of his main goals was to follow through on what the former mayor couldn’t. However, Johnson’s campaign was unsuccessful and he was unable to pursue creating the compost program.

On the state level, Sen. Brad Hoylman and Sen. Julia Salazar introduced legislation this year that requires cities in New York with a population over one million to provide composting services to all residential buildings.

“New York needs to make landscapes, not landfills. Every year New York City’s homes produce one million tons of organic waste that could be reused in a sustainable way. But right now we’re letting all this waste go to waste, instead of composting it. It’s sitting in landfills, where the organic waste produces methane, one of the worst greenhouse gasses. Let’s bring composting to every home in NYC and bring NYC closer to its own internal goals of reducing waste by 90% by 2030,” Hoylman said in a statement in February.

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