New York City’s proposed composting program has been kicked to the curb, dashing hopes of ridding city sidewalks of the daily mounds of trash bags and the rats that love them.
According to Politico, legislation requiring residents to separate their food and yard scraps for composting and reduce residential trash — on the verge of moving forward in March — has hit a financial roadblock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hobbled by a $24.5 million cut in the sanitation department’s budget for organics recycling, New York City is back at square one in what had been an effort to create the most ambitious composting program in the nation,.
“Basically the city’s composting program is hanging on by a thread and the situation isn’t good,” said Eric Goldstein, the New York City environment director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Politico.
“The mayor can’t say he’s a national leader on sustainability and climate change if he’s sending our organics to landfills and incinerators — many of which are located in environmentally overburdened communities of color.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio promised a mandatory program to recycle food and yard scraps during his 2013 campaign; last year, he handed over the responsibility to the City Council.
According to Politico, with pandemic-forced cost-cuts, all that remains in the sanitation department’s budget for food scrap recycling is $2.86 million for drop-off sites — a fraction of the $7 million typically needed to pay for drop-off bins and the transport of the material to compost sites throughout the five boroughs. The $21.1 million curbside program has been eliminated entirely.
“It’s so limited it almost feels symbolic,” Queens resident Lou Reyes told Politico. “It’s not going to really make a dent to the extent we need to.”
Proponents say they’re still pushing to institute a mandatory program at a later date.
But Council Member Antonio Reynoso, chair of the sanitation committee, told Politico he saw little reason to be optimistic that things will get back to where they were in March.
“The hill got steeper and the obstacles are more daunting than ever considering the coronavirus and the health epidemic in front of us,” he told Politico.