Composting, the Bloomberg way

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Composting bins for all residences and businesses in New York City may not be far off. According to the New York Times, the city will test out a program by using a composting plant to process up to 100,000 tons of food scraps a year, or about 10 percent of the city’s annual food waste.

The project involves installing small collection bins in homes and businesses to recycle food waste such as fruit rinds and vegetable scraps. The contents of the collection bins will then be placed in larger bins for street side pickup by sanitation workers.

Over 100 restaurants, 150,000 households, 600 schools and 100 high-rise buildings have signed up to participate in the program. This means that over 5 percent of households in the city will soon be recycling food scraps.

With restaurants turning out over 70 percent of waste produced by businesses, getting restaurants to sign onto the plan would account for a large part of city waste. The composting project has elicited mixed feedback among restaurants. Fear of odor, rodent problems, unsightly waste bins and the additional expense to process the waste for others are some of the primary criticisms of the program. Others, however, see citywide composting as a step forward in the recycling project from the mandatory metal and plastics policy plan established in 1989.

Although the composting project will not be mandatory at first, sanitation officials say that the program may encompass the entire city, including restaurants, by 2015 or 2016. By this plan, non-compliant businesses and residences could be subject to a citation by the Department of Sanitation, similar to the system set up in the current metal and plastics recycling policy.

In an interview with the New York Times, Eric A. Goldstein, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the plan “revolutionary,” and that “if successful, pretty soon there’ll be very little trash for homeowners to put in their old garbage cans.”

With Mayor Bloomberg leaving office at the end of the year, the overall trajectory of the composting program still remains up in the air. The upcoming July 17 Mayoral Candidate Forum on the Future of Food in New York City will perhaps impart some answers. The forum will provide the public the opportunity to engage mayoral candidates on their positions on the future of food and whether they plan to actively pursue Bloomberg’s composting plan.