Separating your recyclables and setting them out curbside is a no-brainer green act. But as composting becomes more in vogue, you’re not sure how you feel about collecting your food scraps.
If you’re a resident of New York City, however, separating your organic waste from the rest of your trash could be easy, thanks to a pilot program run by the city’s Sanitation Department. Advocates of the $10 million project hope that discarded foods, such as peels, eggshells and even a half-eaten burger will end up at composting sites.
The initiative will not only benefit the environment and save the city more than $300 million annually in trucking food scraps to landfills, but it will also reduce the city’s rat population, a benefit that residents love, according to The New York Times.
“When we talk to people, lots of times we lead with the rats because they’re such a visceral issue,” Haley Rogers, a sanitation employee, told The New York Times. “It’s like we’re giving them a buffet every night.”
The city’s program began last year when Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the first pilot program in May on Staten Island, which achieved a 43 percent participation rate, according to Bloomberg. While it was successful in a borough with the highest percentage of single family homes, the question is now whether or not the program can do as well with high-rise residents.
The program is now running in all boroughs, where 100,000 households and 350 schools are embracing it. The hope is to have children return home and urge their family members to sign up for it.
If it succeeds, the Sanitation Department will recommend an expansion of it by the end of next summer. And by October 2015, the sanitation commissioner must also issue a report on the program, as instructed by the bill that was passed by the city council to expand the initial pilot program.
“This is the opening of what could be a very dramatic change in how we deal with a large portion of our waste,” said Eric Goldstein, New York City environmental director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “On the issue of solid waste and recycling, the administration started slowly but it’s finishing strongly.”
But while some residents are skeptical about the recycling everything program, because of storage issues and “the yuck factor,” the reality is that composting can help the city with its waste problem. And while the program is now running in all boroughs, more can be obviously be done with regards to expansion.
“The bottom line is we can do an awful lot better,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference in 2013. “This saves us money and it dramatically makes the environment that our kids are going to inherit from us better. It’s hard to argue that you shouldn’t do this.”