Explaining NYC's Composting Plan

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Bloomberg administration is considering expanding its voluntary food-scrap recycling plan -- and possibly making composting mandatory in the same way plastic recycling currently is. Cas Holloway, New York City deputy mayor for operations, and Ron Gonen, New York City's deputy commissioner of sanitation, recycling, and sustainability, discuss composting in the city and answer your basic questions.

Comments [46]

Having just read through all the posts on this page, I want to note that I appreciated most and some excellent questions and points were raised.

@ "carolita from nyc" (Jun. 18 2013 10:17 AM):

I keep organic garbage in my refrigerator until I take it-out. Even though I happen to live opposite the compactor-chute, using it after each and every meal or food-preparation would, if nothing else, be terribly wasteful of bags.

(I learned this trick from my dear aunt, who also lives alone.)

Regarding chicken bones, what about /eating/ them?

They are full of calcium and, when sufficiently softened by cooking*, not just /edible/ but, dare I say, downright /delectable/.

(*As anyone who's ever had chicken in a cholent would know quite well...)

Seems a shame how few, of the many people who consume chicken /flesh/, also consume the /bones/.

Jun. 23 2013 11:57 PM

"dboy" wrote (Jun. 18 2013 10:32 AM),
"If Bloomberg were half as aggressive on environmental issues as he is on generating revenue on traffic/parking "violations" we'd be able to eat off the sidewalk!"

If Bloomberg were a /tenth/ as zealous on a certain other public health issue as he is on sugary drinks and any number of other issues (most of which I don't have a problem with or even agree with his stance on, BTW), countless lives as well as medical expenditures would be spared, and any number of other evils at least reduced.

For the hideous reality, as politically and socially incorrect it may be to acknowledge, is nonetheless incontrovertible: Buggery (anal penetration) is an anatomically and physiologically unsound, inherently gruesome (if not sado-masochistic) and inordinately /dangerous/ act. All relevant statistics make this unmistakably, unequivocally clear.

Yet Bloomberg has consistently supported what has become the status-quo of massive whitewashing of these facts and absolute refusal to so much as merely /discourage/ the harmful, disease-spreading act in question. Thus, no matter how positive his accomplishments in /other/ areas of public health may be, as long as Bloomberg allows the demands of a militant, special-interest lobby to trump sound health and educational policy, as is clearly the case in /this/ area, calling him "The Public Health Mayor" is nothing short of /Orwellian/.

Jun. 23 2013 11:28 PM
Kendall Christiansen from Brooklyn

the other option: because food scraps are 70% water, use a food waste disposer (legal in NYC since 1997, after five years of study/test projects, prompted by the Sanitation Commissioner) to convert it into a liquid slurry to be processed by the City's 14 water resource recovery centers (it's not wastewater anymore), with the capacity to produce clean water, biogas/renewable energy and fertilizer products (until two years, the city effectively converted @ 100% of its sludge into fertilizer products, before landfills offered cheaper prices). using our disposer, my household hasn't put ANY food scraps at the curb for over 15 years - and cities elsewhere are considering disposers an essential part of the toolkit. NYCHA has installed thousands of disposers; Battery Park City required them in last six residential buildings. Relying on truck-based collection to ship to distant compost facilities also can work, but generally better for commercial/institutional food scraps.

Jun. 19 2013 08:28 AM

Forget all the people wondering where they will put another bin in their small apartments - how do so many of you have all that extra room in your freezer? Mine is full almost all the time - definitely no room for a bag of food scraps.

Jun. 18 2013 01:01 PM
Amy from Manhattan

You don't need an additional bin *in your apt.*--just bring the scraps to your bldg's. recycling area. You can keep it in the fridge till then.

NSNY, at least cardboard boxes are recyclable. And it's not as if they *can't* be reused--I've gone to the recycling room to look for boxes when I need them, & I've seen other residents doing the same thing. And what are the kind of reusable containers you have in mind made of? What resources do they use, & how would they be disposed of after their useful life?

Leah, I tear the plastic part out of the milk carton. Now that all rigid plastics are recyclable, they should be OK in the bins w/other plastics. What I'm not sure about is the softer plastic seal/pull ring inside the cap!

dboy, it turns out there are different levels of compostability. I brought some packages from Suncups (chocolate sunflower butter cups for people w/peanut allergies, but they're good even if you're not allergic!) to the Greenmarket, which say they're compostable, & the person at the compost table said they biodegrade too slowly to work in their compost piles & are suitable for composting only in industrial-size operations. I hope that wouldn't be true for other kinds of packaging that might be made compostable. (Also, I wouldn't eat off the sidewalks till the pooper-scooper law is enforced equally aggressively!)

superf88, not only for humans--remember the pet food imported from China that killed so many cats & dogs?

Jun. 18 2013 11:15 AM
Gordon from Springboro Ohio

A recent International study determined that one third of the food the World produces ends up as Waste. This is almost sinful and is deplorable. There are two basic fears for a home maker at the idea of collecting Food Waste in a kitchen container, 1 Odors, and 2 Fruit Flies (and other vermin). There are containers out there that add designed to accommodate food waste collection that seal the lid and bucket so that there is no Odor or Fruit Flies. One such product is a "YUKCHUK" and they come with a long as you own warranty, with patent pending Lid Closure arrangement. Check them out at

Jun. 18 2013 11:01 AM

- cucumber peels are purported to repel roaches

- orange peels are purported to repel ants

Since I started placing cucumber peels around my apt., around two years, I rarely see a roach.

But I can't rule-out mere /correlation/.

Jun. 18 2013 10:49 AM

"Americans waste half again as much food as we did in the 1970s. And systemic food waste and rates of obesity have climbed together."

We've become a grossly gluttonous and greedy lot.

Jun. 18 2013 10:47 AM
RBC from NYC

RE Seaport City - What missing from the discussion is two things:

(1)Battery Park City didn't flood during Sandy because the water had somewhere to go: the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. If that tunnel wasn't there, Battery Park City would've been overcome with water.

(2)Lack of transportation infrastructure on the east side of Manhattan. Bloomberg, unable to see beyond his own ego and ambition, doesn't get that living in East Manhattan will be unbearable unless the 2nd Avenue Subway is complete from Hanover Sq to 125th Street. I work near the Staten Island Ferry and the 3 subway stops - Whitehall St (1 & R), Wall St (2 & 3) and Bowling Green (4 & 5) cannot take anymore people. The 4 & 5 trains are at complete capacity for the entire Manhattan route. Until a comprehensive transportation plan is included, any building on the east side should be dead in the water.

Jun. 18 2013 10:38 AM

I'd like to know if there is a way for residents in apartment buildings to request that their landlords participate in this program. I freeze my food waste and would be quite happy composting it if given a place to do it. Would someone please reply?

Jun. 18 2013 10:36 AM

Turn the WAY OVER ZEALOUS traffic cops on policing the proper practice of recycling and composting.

If Bloomberg were half as aggressive on environmental issues as he is on generating revenue on traffic/parking "violations" we'd be able to eat off the sidewalk!

Jun. 18 2013 10:32 AM

I'm excited to see this program implemented in New York. But I notice the containers that the city is providing require the use of plastic bags. I've cut my use of plastic bags to close to zero because of what it has done to our oceans and I don't intend to start using them again. Tell me how we can get this done without using plastic bags and I'm in.

Jun. 18 2013 10:31 AM

GREAT idea.

However, I would never use this compost for my own veggie gardening unless the compost earth was screen for heavy metals and other toxins. (Which is why eating food, incl. tofu, from China and India, even if it's organic, is incredibly risky for humans.)

Jun. 18 2013 10:30 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I don't find it necessary to freeze my food waste. I have 1 shelf in my refrigerator for it, & it doesn't smell, even though I only take the compost to the Greenmarket once a week. I keep it in emptied chip bags or the bags from inside cereal boxes, so at least they get reused once.

Hey--will we ever be able to recycle chip/cereal bags?

Jun. 18 2013 10:29 AM

(Not about composting but I posted the following twice before when Mr. Gonen was on and it was completely ignored. So re-posting and urging others to speak-out and demand answers.)

Please address the bottle/can deposit program, which in an urban area such as NYC, unduly burdens both consumers as well as retailers in a number of ways.

-Most stores in the city just don't have the space to deal with accepting bottle returns, and, many, if not most, simply don't.

-Likewise, few residents have the luxury of sufficient space for storing their bottles and cans, and even fewer the time to deal with the hassle of returning them. And it seems that most don't.

-Thus, the .05 deposit on each and every bottle and can (which, over time, can add-up to quite a considerable sum) is, effectively, a disguised /tax/ upon the city's citizens. And a rather /regressive/ one at that.
- Retailers are required to give 80% of unclaimed deposits to the City. What is the compliance rate? How aggressive/successful has the City been in collecting these funds?

-One-gallon water bottles do not require deposit but three-liter ones do. Yet, the return machines cannot accept the three-liter size bottles.

So, first, you have to wait on line to feed all the other bottles and cans, one-at-a-time, into the machines. Then, you have wait on line a /second time/, at the customer service desk, to return the 3-liter bottles. This amount-to an excessive, completely unreasonable, unfair burden placed upon residents of the city (visitors too).

And why the discrepancy? One-gallon and three-liter bottles are close enough to each in other size that it would seem only logical for them to share the same deposit status.

Jun. 18 2013 10:28 AM
NSNY from Bklyn

Seriously, it's SOO rewarding when you see how much less goes into your trash bin. The irony here is - your apartment trash gets stinky from the food you toss in there for the regular trash, right? Well now instead you'll be putting the food into an airtight bin or in the freezer, so there will no longer be a smell.

Jun. 18 2013 10:27 AM

What about the fermentation mode of composting (Bokashi)
as opposed to rotting? It is much faster. Has this been considered?

Jun. 18 2013 10:27 AM

"The best estimate is that 40 percent of food in this country is never eaten.

The sheer waste is bad enough, a mindless squandering of calories, nutrition, energy and water. But that uneaten food also rots in landfills, generating as much as a quarter of this country’s emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas."

Jun. 18 2013 10:26 AM
Amy from Manhattan

On the "will NYCers get it right" question, I currently find plastic containers w/food still in them in the plastics/metal bin. I'm thinking when compost pickup starts, I'll be finding food still in plastic containers in the compost bin.

But I'm very glad this program will be added!

Jun. 18 2013 10:24 AM

NEED ENFORCEMENT!!! Decrease landfill contributions of recyclable materials and GENERATE REVENUE!! San Franciso has team of garbage inspectors. We need to ticket!!

Jun. 18 2013 10:23 AM

Cathy ~

Not to worry, after the end of the world you won't be inconvenienced by anything anymore.


Jun. 18 2013 10:22 AM
o.p. from Brooklyn, NY

Got the same question as Amy! Pizza boxes ok? Anything that should NOT go in??

Thank you! THis is absolutely fantastic!

Jun. 18 2013 10:22 AM
Leah from Harlem

I would like the Dept. to create videos on an annual basis, showing exactly what they do, and what's new this year.

What about things like milk cartons that include rigid plastic pouring component?

WHAT ABOUT CREATING LOCAL JOBS for people to sort this stuff for us? People hardly know how to recycle.

Jun. 18 2013 10:22 AM
Sydney from UWS

My boyfriend laughed in my face when I told him I would be separating my food garbage and walking it to a farmers market once a week. Now he is completely on board. All you need to do is freeze or refigerate your waste until you are ready to drop it off at a green market. Even his mother in New Jersey has started separating her food waste. It's not extra work! It's extremely rewarding and natural!

Jun. 18 2013 10:22 AM
Bob Johnston from NYC

How exactly are apartment dwellers supposed to pull this off? In my apartment building there is one chute on each floor for garbage. Are we supposed to dump the compost materials down the chute? Are we supposed to hoard garbage in our apartments until we bring it down to the basement?

Jun. 18 2013 10:22 AM
Kin from Brooklyn

I love the idea but how can people with small apartments afford the space for another garbage bin?

Jun. 18 2013 10:21 AM
NSNY from Bklyn

I'd also like to see the City require Fresh Direct deliver groceries in reusable containers instead of wasting all of those horrible cardboard boxes. Now we have to worry about Amazon adding to the problem too???

Jun. 18 2013 10:21 AM
Amy from Manhattan

1. Did 1 of the guests imply paper w/food residue on it will be allowed in the composting program? So all those greasy pizza boxes in the recycling bins can go in the city's compost bin instead?

2. What kind of organic material, if any, *won't* be allowed in the compost bins?

Jun. 18 2013 10:20 AM
John from NYC

Is NYC going to bring back the Fall leaf composting? This seemed to work quite well on Staten Island with the compost material give back as well. This would prevent a lot of the seasonal leaves from entering the waste stream.

Jun. 18 2013 10:20 AM

This is fantastic. I compost by keeping food scraps in the freezer and dropping them off once a week at the nearby Farmers' Market. Thrilled to hear composting will become even easier in the city.

Jun. 18 2013 10:20 AM
Judy Richardson from Brooklyn

I love this idea and already compost all of my food waste in my composting bin from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, in the backyard. I just don't understand why there is attention on food waste now, while all commercial businesses don't have to recycle at all! All bars and restaurants don't recycle anything--think of the amount of glass and plastic and metal generated every day! Companies and school don't recycle either, it's shameful. So while this talk of composting is excellent, what about making it possible for businesses to recycle at all?

Jun. 18 2013 10:19 AM
Leah from South Harlem

What about dog poop?

Jun. 18 2013 10:19 AM
Kaja from Brooklyn

Would some of the compost be made available to community gardens? They are always in need for good soil and with greenthumbs budget already being too small for the over 700 gardens, this could be an easy fit.

Jun. 18 2013 10:17 AM
Sydney from UWS

I have been composting via the NYC "Green Markets" for almost one year now. I keep a bag on my kitchen counter and freeze the waste after I cook. I drop off my bag of food waste at any of my local farmers market one a week. It seem unatural not to separate my food waste now.

The city uses food waste to turn into soil and use in city parks.

Jun. 18 2013 10:17 AM
carolita from nyc

We already separate our "stinky" garbage from our inanimate garbage, just out of practicality -- when you live in an apartment, and don't make tons of garbage, you don't want to have to bring the garbage down three times a day, or you don't want an overflowing small bin (you don't want a large one either). We bring down the stinky garbage at the end of the day, and wait fo the non-stinky one to fill up, sometimes it takes a couple days. So, we're all set. I think it's a great plan.

Jun. 18 2013 10:17 AM
monique from nyc

I keep my compost in the freezer so that it does not smell.

Jun. 18 2013 10:17 AM
NSNY from Bklyn

I hope this expands citywide! I currently gather my foodwaste and freeze it, until I have the chance to walk it a few blocks to the neighborhood garden compost. The City has been using compost from this garden as well.

I've been thinking of getting a bin for my building and taking the whole building's compost over. YES, we are eager to do this Mayor!

Jun. 18 2013 10:16 AM

When do we require ALL packaging to be compostable!?!?!

Jun. 18 2013 10:16 AM



Thank you!!

Jun. 18 2013 10:14 AM
Tony from Canarise

I've read that around 20% of NYC compost is already being recycled. Any truth to that?

Jun. 18 2013 10:14 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

What will be done with the food waste after it is picked up? Where will it be taken and "dumped"?

Jun. 18 2013 10:14 AM
john from office

This will work in Park Slope or the upper west side, not in "certain" areas.

Jun. 18 2013 10:14 AM

Good idea, but many of us do not have room in our small NYC apartments for 4 trash bins in our kitchens! One for garbage, one for glass/plastic, one for paper and now one for compost? Please tell me where we will put these?

Jun. 18 2013 10:13 AM

What are the cost savings that have already been achieved thru recycling vs estimates of costs if there had been none. What is the impact on that infestations of fewer pickups? How much time do people need to spend on recycling and is this factored into the cost?

Jun. 18 2013 10:13 AM

How will you be sure compost doesn't get contaminated w mercury, bleach, pharmaceuticals -- all the stuff that our landfills and waterways are brimming with?

Jun. 18 2013 10:12 AM
culprit from Brooklyn

I compost on my roof in Brooklyn. No rats, squirrels or raccoons. No smell, either. And my garden is amazing!

Jun. 18 2013 10:12 AM

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