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Curbside composting bins in NYC
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Mandatory composting is coming to New York City by fall 2024

Warning: those food scraps might get you fined.

Written by
Christina Izzo

There have been many recent developments in the world of urban composting where New York is concerned. First, Mayor Eric Adams announced during his January 2023 State of the City address that a curbside composting program would be coming to all five boroughs by the end of 2024.

Also in January, Governor Kathy Hochul approved human composting, a.k.a. “green burials,” in New York State, which involves placing a body inside of a reusable pod alongside biodegradable plant materials to decompose sustainably.

RECOMMENDED: How to compost, recycle and get rid of anything in NYC

On Thursday, June 8, the City Council passed a residential mandate that will require New Yorkers to separate their food scraps from their regular trash in an attempt to reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills. That waste breaks down and produces methane, the gnarly greenhouse gas that is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the industrial revolution (per the International Energy Agency) and generally effing the whole planet up. 

The food-waste program will require all residential buildings to participate by the fall of 2024: Brooklyn and Queens first in October 2023, the Bronx and Staten Island in March 2024, and, finally, Manhattan that October. It will operate in a similar way as the city's current recycling regulations: NYC residents will simply have to separate items like food scraps, yard waste and food-soiled paper in a dedicated bin, which will reportedly be collected, composted and processed by the Sanitation Department. And similarly, the Sanitation Department will be able to fine buildings and businesses if they fail to use the new organic bins "more than four times in a sixth month period," reports The New York Post, with monetary penalties starting at $25 and working up to $100 per offense. 

Per The New York Times, roughly half of the residential waste produced throughout New York City is of the organic variety, such as food scraps, and organic waste “represents the largest portion of New York City’s residential solid waste that could be diverted from landfills,” according to a 2021 report from the New York City Independent Budget Office. 

Where Adams' all-borough composting initiatives are voluntary, the new City Council bill is mandatory. “This Zero Waste package will not only greatly expand accessibility to composting and recycling across our city, but will also make it easier for New Yorkers to incorporate environmental action into their routines,” said Council Majority Leader Keith Powers.

New York City residents who live in public housing will be exempt from the city's new composting mandate, as the public housing authority is considered a federal agency, reports the Times.

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