Mayor Proposes First Composting Mandate in New York City

The Adams administration will propose New York City’s first composting mandate on Monday — requiring that residents who have yards separate their leaves, flowers, twigs and grass clippings for compost.

The new rules on yard waste would take effect over the next 18 months as the city also implements a voluntary curbside composting program across all five boroughs.

The sanitation commissioner, Jessica Tisch, said in an interview that making composting mandatory was important, and that it would be easy for New Yorkers to set aside yard waste and to place it out on their recycling pickup day instead of tossing it in the trash.

“Yard waste is the right place to start because it’s something New Yorkers already naturally separate,” she said. “There’s no real behavioral change required, and I think you have to ease into these mandates.”

Leaders in New York City have been trying to promote composting for more than a decade. The popular voluntary curbside composting program in Queens returns on Monday — the first step in a citywide rollout. It will expand to Brooklyn in October, to Staten Island and the Bronx in March 2024 and to Manhattan in October 2024.

The yard-waste mandate is expected to begin in Queens in June. It would take effect in the other boroughs when curbside composting begins in that borough and does not require City Council approval, though a public hearing will be held on the proposal.

The yard-waste mandate is the latest in a series of changes in the way New York City handles trash. Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat in his second year in office, has focused on making the city cleaner, improving trash collection and killing as many rats as possible. He plans to soon announce his new rat czar, a position advertised as requiring a “killer instinct” and with a salary as high as $170,000.

Municipal composting took off in the United States in the 1990s after San Francisco became the first city to offer a major food-scrap collection program. It is now mandatory for residents in San Francisco and Seattle, and Los Angeles just introduced a composting mandate. Most experts agree that composting must be mandatory to be successful.

Other cities with major composting programs, including Toronto and Portland, started with a yard-waste mandate and eventually required residents to compost food scraps as well, said Ms. Tisch, who celebrated the return of curbside composting to Queens after a winter pause at Archie Sprigner Park on Sunday with Donovan Richards, the Queens borough president.

“The only adjustment is instead of putting it in black bags, you put it in a clear bag or a compost bin and leave it out on your recycling day and we’ll come pick it up,” she said. “Instead of that material sitting in landfill for decades, we’ll turn it into soil or renewable energy.”

Under the new rules, composting yard waste would be required for eight months each year, from March to July and September to November. Existing rules in city law mean that it would not be mandated during the peaks of summer and winter. It would still be collected year-round.

There is expected to be a three-month warning period before the Sanitation Department starts issuing tickets for noncompliance with the yard-waste rules, city officials said. After that, residents could receive a citation for putting yard waste out as trash, just as they can receive a ticket now for putting cans or bottles in the trash, instead of recycling them.

The current fines for failing to recycle vary from $25 for a first offense for a building with one to eight residential units to $400 for a third offense for a residential building with nine or more units.

At the same time, new rules for setting out garbage begin on April 1. The goal is to leave trash out for shorter periods, and the city has been running an advertising campaign featuring a rat carrying a suitcase under the headline: “Send Rats Packing!” Residential buildings will have to place waste out after 6 p.m. if using a container and after 8 p.m. if putting bags on the curb.

The current 4 p.m. start time — among the earliest for major cities around the world — means that refuse can sit on the pavement for 14 hours before it is collected.

Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conversation Voters, praised the mayor and Ms. Tisch for the new yard-waste composting mandate and for continuing to make composting a priority.

“This is a big step forward toward getting full citywide composting and ultimately toward making it mandatory for everyone,” she said.

Source: Read Full Article