My Testimony to City Council on Restoring Organics Collection

It’s ironic that just in time for Earth Day, New York City announced that it was suspending the popular Organics recycling program for the FY21 Executive Budget. The three composting budget programs — all of which have no impact to DSNY head count — include curbside, community composting and all the community support of the citywide composting initiatives.

The benefits of separating organic waste, such as food scraps, yard trimmings, and solid paper, from the trash are manifold: fewer rats, less air pollution, less soil contamination, healthier lives, and cleaner waterways. Organics collection isn’t just about composting; it is about public-health. And we need to keep focus on long term public health even as we address the current public health emergency.

Since NYC Compost Pickup started in 2014, tons of organics have been removed from our waste stream. This public health initiative has meant fewer rats, improved air and water quality, and reduced carbon impact. NYC Composting enriches the soil in local parks and teaches the fundamentals of the environmental economy’s virtuous circle.

One third of what New Yorkers throw away is food scraps and yard waste. Instead of sending it to landfills, we can continue to use this waste to create compost and renewable energy.

We need to invest in creating sustainable, resilient, and equitable communities. We thank DSNY for the 315 weeks of Organics Recycling that have just come to an end. But now is no time to sacrifice our public health.

We are worried that under the guise of the pandemic this program has been cancelled and will never return. The decision was made without input, without proper process, and without transparency.

In the same announcement, the City also stopping e-waste collection and discontinuing SAFE Disposal events, which safely remove toxic materials such as Solvents, Automotive, Flammables, and Electronics — anything that says “Danger” or “Poison” — from the waste stream, air and water.

Have the following budget implications been considered?

  1. Increase of approximately 2600 tons of additional waste that will enter the solid waste stream (2068 tons of organics was dropped at community drop sites, plus 468 in curbside from 2018 numbers).
  2. Shut down and start up costs of stopping and then starting these programs again in 2021
  3. Financial impact on the seven NYC not-for-profit institutions who provide community composting support
  4. Long term costs of handling toxic in the waste stream

In other cities with organics collection, like Toronto, the sanitation departments have reduced regular garbage collection. Households that appropriately recycle paper, plastics and organics do not need the same level of regular garbage collection. Reducing garbage pick-up when Organics is back is one way to balance the cost of the program.

Check out the Zoom event I hosted about NYC’s suspension of its organics collection program and how you can compost from home, no matter how much space you have!

Climate activist, tech entrepreneur, and working mom of four, running for NYC Council, District 11 in The Bronx.

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