West Side Rag » The city now needs a ‘100% organic curbside collection,’ says Brewer


Posted April 30, 2022 at 9:42 am by West Side Rag

Brewers fight for sustainability laws. Photo by Daniel Katzive.

By Daniel Kative

“The only way to get rid of the rats is to grow organic produce,” City Councilman Gale Brewer told the crowd at a rally Thursday at City Hall in support of three sustainability bills coming before the council.

A bill by Brooklyn Councilman Shahana Hanif calls for a return to citywide roadside organic material collection. The other bills being introduced will require the city to establish three sites per county for the recycling of electronic and biowaste and require the city to meet its goal of sending no more waste to landfill by 2030.

“Gale remains committed to the need for universal organic curbside pickup and plans to be a co-sponsor of the bill,” Edward Amador, her communications director, told WSR. In a follow-up email, he cited studies showing that if the city collected organic waste at the same rate as recyclable waste from landfills, the cost of collecting and processing organic waste would be consistent with the overall cost of waste management could divert – about 15% city. Supporters of the bill at City Hall also emphasized this point: Reducing the amount of organic waste going to landfill is key to meeting the city’s climate goals for reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The city’s curbside organics recycling program was suspended during the pandemic and is currently only resuming in select counties and on an opt-in basis. Residents (or building managers) in seven of the city’s 59 Community Board districts, including CB7 on the Upper West Side, may request a brown bio-waste collection container from the Sanitation Department (DSNY) for pickup on collection days.

There are also food waste drop-off locations throughout the city, including several at the various weekly vegetable markets throughout the UWS. DSNY told WSR that organics collected in Manhattan are currently being shipped to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) anaerobic digester in Brooklyn, but at other times organics may also be shipped to DSNY’s Staten Island composting facility and similar facilities elsewhere will. DEP’s fermenters can help convert organic waste and wastewater into biogas and fertilizer.

According to DSNY records, CB 7 collected an average of 3.0 tons of organics per day in February 2022. It was the second-highest contributor to organics in Manhattan that month, behind only District 3 on the Lower East Side. This is still 15% below the level of organic waste collected in February 2020 before the pandemic. District 6 in Brooklyn had the highest numbers in the city as of February 2022, but was also well below February 2020 rates.

The proposed sustainability legislation has the backing of at least eight of the 51 city council members who attended the rally. However, the mayor may have different views on how far the organic collection can be expanded given the fiscal restrictions right now. According to DSNY spokesman Vincent Gragnani, “The mayor’s executive budget includes funds to continue existing curbside composting services and to expand those services within the community boards that are already receiving services.”

Gragnani notes: “The budget will continue to fund food waste drop-off points and provide additional funding for 100 ‘smart’ bins across the city that can be accessed 24/7 with a key or app. It will also expand biocollections to all schools in the city’s Department of Education over the next two years (about half the schools are currently participating).”

In contrast, Brewer insists the city “now needs 100% organic curbside collection.” Brewer told Thursday’s rally, “There’s no downside, none, in having universal curbside composting mandated today.”


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