In his second State of the City speech, Mayor Eric Adams said that voluntary composting will soon expand to all five boroughs. “By the end of 2024, every New Yorker, all 8.5 million people, will have the solution they’ve been waiting two decades for, and I’m proud my administration was able to get it done,” he said. Some experts expect it to fail.
by David Stone
The system of curbside composting kicks off with a restart of a Queens program the city paused in December. That happens on March 27th, but a new Manhattan piece waits until October 2024.
The two dates matter because Roosevelt Island, being a hybrid, fits better in the Queens plan. Transportation issues should, if the program works, supersede borough borders. But with plans still sketchy, we won’t know for a while.
But Will Voluntary Composting Work?
Despite years of bloviating from City officials, the alleged greatest city in the United States has fallen far behind Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Each of those cities has mandatory rules, and nobody’s stepping up to consider Adams’s plan anything more than a step in the right direction.
“It was an exciting announcement and encouraging move, but ultimately a voluntary program by itself can’t achieve the scale of participation necessary for long-term success,” said Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Fund.
That’s because voluntary composting is not easy or effective.
Households in small New York City apartments like on Roosevelt Island must find space for separate compost collections. That’s in addition to already separating recycled before whooshing other trash down AVAC chutes.
With history as a guide, there’s little reason for optimism. Recycling, required for years in New York City, has a 17% effective rate, according to the Times, while Seattle’s is nearly 63%
In residential buildings where recycling is already confusing and often ignored, managers can help, but will they? So far, they’ve been unable to prevent AVAC chutes from collecting all manner of inappropriate material.
How Do City Composting Plans Work?
City composting plans typically involve collecting organic waste such as food scraps, yard trimmings, and paper products from residents through a curbside pickup program or drop-off locations.
The materials are then transported to a composting facility where they are mixed with other organic matter to create a nutrient-rich soil additive.
The compost is then packaged and sold back to the city for use in gardens, public parks, and other green spaces. City composting plans help divert organic waste from landfills, reducing the amount of trash that needs to be processed and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, composting can reduce water usage by boosting the soil’s ability to absorb and hold moisture.