Bloomberg to Require New Yorkers to Recycle Food for Composting

New York City will require residents to separate food waste for collection to be composted by 2016, following a voluntary program at 150,000 single-family homes and 100 apartment buildings.

A pilot program that started in May on Staten Island, the borough with the highest percentage of single-family homes, achieved a participation rate of 43 percent, the mayor’s office said today in an e-mail.

“By recycling food waste, we can cut down on the total amount of trash we send to landfills and put it to better use as compost for community gardens or even energy,” said Caswell Holloway, deputy mayor for operations. “This is an innovative program that’s already seen success in homes on Staten Island and our public schools, and we’re excited to expand it to more New Yorkers.”

Food scraps make up about 1.2 million tons, or 35 percent, of the city’s annual waste, which gets sent to landfills at a cost of about $80 per ton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in February, when he announced the goal. Recycled waste could be used as fertilizer or converted to natural gas at much lower prices, the mayor said. The initiative is part of a broader goal to divert 30 percent of waste from landfills by 2017.

The New York Times reported on the pilot program today.

Curbside Pickup

Under the program, New Yorkers will collect food scraps in containers, to be deposited in brown receptacles on the curb for pickup by garbage trucks. Apartment dwellers will empty their pails of uneaten waste at collection points, as they do now with recycled glass and paper, officials said.

The current pilot program collects organic waste for composting. Ultimately, officials envision construction of a plant within the city to convert scraps into natural gas as well as fertilizer.

The Sanitation Department collects more than 3 million tons of waste every year from residences and institutions, and spends more than $300 million to dispose of it in landfills and conventional waste-to-energy facilities, often in other states.

In January 2012, the mayor set a goal of doubling the diversion rate, the percentage of waste not sent to landfills thanks to recycling, composting or energy conversion.

Officials intend to have about 25,000 residents participating in neighborhoods in the five boroughs by year-end, before expanding the voluntary program in the next two years.

New York has at least 2.9 million residential units divided among single-family homes, condominiums, cooperatives and apartment rentals, according to Owen Stone, a spokesman for the Finance Department.

School Recycling

The city also began recycling food in about 90 public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan this past term. Manhattan schools increased diversion from trash to 34 percent from 15 percent; in Brooklyn the rate rose to 38 percent from 15 percent, the mayor’s office said.

New York, whose 8.4 million residents make it the most populous U.S. city, would become the largest to require recycling of food scraps. Smaller, less dense cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle, require food recycling from homes.

The plan would have to be administered by the mayor who succeeds Bloomberg, whose third and final term ends Dec. 31. Two Democratic mayoral candidates, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, each support the compost plan, their spokesmen said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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