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War on waste and rats in America’s biggest cities gears up – and bins will be checked!

Both Los Angeles and New York have announced massive curbside composting programmes.

New York City will expand its program to all five boroughs by the end of next year, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Thursday. His administration launched a borough-wide curbside organics pilot in Queens for three months last year, no signup required.

A worker sorting through food scraps at the East River Compost Yard in Manhattan
Credit: Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

On Thursday, the mayor deemed the pilot successful, diverting nearly 13 million pounds of food and yard waste away from landfills en route to become nutritious, earthy compost.

“That’s more than the weight of 300 city buses,” the mayor noted.

The program will become truly citywide in October 2024 when Manhattan joins the party.

Compostable items to toss in a special brown bin include yard waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper products.

About one-third of the 24 million tons of trash produced daily in the Big Apple consists of compostable organic matter, but most ends up at the dump with everything else. By separating organic waste from regular household trash, New Yorkers can prevent it from going to landfills and instead rest assured it will be turned into nutrient-rich soil for use in city parks.

A residential composting bin in a New York City borough.

Expansion of composting is not the city’s only new initiative in the mayor’s ongoing War on Rats. He plans to hire a “Rat Czar” to coordinate the city’s policies towards the beleaguered rodents;
he didn’t provide any update on the hiring process for the position, which could pay up to $170,000 per year.

Los Angeles also launched its long-awaited curbside composting program citywide this month, requiring that residents change how they dispose of food scraps. Starting now, chicken bones, orange peels, coffee grounds, pizza boxes and the like belong in green yard waste bins rather than black trash cans.

Now everyone in the city can get free buckets.

The organics composting program is not just a feel-good service for the residents of this environmentally minded town. Compliance isn’t optional. It’s mandatory. And if Angelenos don’t know about the program or their responsibility, how can they comply? And if they don’t comply they could eventually be fined. Yes, there are city workers who peek in trash bins to check for material that should not be in there.

About 8 000 000 tons of trash produced daily in New York city consists of compostable organic matter.

Food waste accounts for about 30% of the roughly 3,500 tons of material that the city sends to the landfill every day.

The city also needs to be very clear about what materials are allowed in the green bin — and what is not. For example, many people are under the misapprehension that plastic products labeled “compostable” will decompose right along with carrot leaves and stale bread crusts. They can’t. Those products require higher temperatures to break down than what is generated in organic composting plants. In fact, compostable plastic can’t be recycled either, which means, for the moment, it’s just trash.

But food scraps are not trash. They are nutrient-rich organics that when properly processed could be used to improve soil and grow food.

-LA Times/New York Times

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