‘Make Compost, Not Trash,’ DSNY says

By Billy Wood


Everyone is encouraged to compost. Photo: GrowNYC.

At the beginning of this month, the Department of Sanitation kicked off the curbside composting program for all of Queens County, with pick-ups scheduled on recycling days.

Compost pertains to items such as food scraps and leaves that are thrown out, but can be put in  soil to help plants grow.

Therefore, it’s better for the environment because it makes for less waste in landfills and reduces the release of methane into the air.

“One-third of what New York residents throw out is compostable,” said Allie Gumas, senior manager of drop off and community composting at the Department of Sanitation.

“If you want to throw in your meat, diary, and other food scraps we will take that,” said Gumas. “You are giving it to us already, it is just a matter of it getting composted or not.”

DSNY’s Allie Gumas spoke at last week’s CB5 monthly meeting.

As things continue to return to how they once were pre-COVID, Gumas and others are handing out fliers and mailers to help spread the word. They want everyone to know about the composting program.

“For now, we are still supplying free brown bins to the buildings that want to start participating,” she said. “It is like when recycling was first rolled out in the late ‘80s early ‘90s because they were giving out recycling bins.”

Curbside composting is not something new to the city. It began in Staten Island in 2013. Eventually, some neighborhoods in Queens did have compost service, but due to the pandemic, the funding had to be reallocated and composting was halted.

“It is important that we do organic recycling,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Queens Community Board 5.  “It is 30 percent of the waste stream of NYC.”

One of the biggest expenses for the Department of Sanitation is the waste export. According to The Council of the City of New York, the budget for 2022 will be increased to $448.2 million.

“We need that composting. It will save the city a lot of money and even more important is that it is important for the environment,” Giordano said.

While it is still too early to get the data on the amount of homes that are making use of the curbside composting program, the department is hoping a high number of residents are participating.

The program will be on hiatus from the last week of December through March for winter preparation.

During those months, they will look into the data to see how much yard and food waste they receive. Once they have more information they will then gauge how they should move forward with this relatively new program.

While there will be no pick-ups during those months, there will be drop-off locations throughout the city that will accept your compost.

Locally, GrowNYC offers their composting program at the Ridgewood Farmstand, located at the Ridgewood Veterans Triangle at Myrtle and Cypress Avenues. Between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. each Saturday through Nov 19., folks can bring their food scraps to the location to make compost.

For information about drop-off locations, please visit https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/site/services/food-scraps-and-yard-waste-page/nyc-food-scrap-drop-off-locations.

Curbside composting returns next month

Curbside composting is returning this October.
Any resident can sign up for curbside composting regardless of whether or not they were in a zone before the pandemic derailed the service. Signing up will help the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) understand where the demand for curbside composting is high.
“Outreach and education around this initiative is important to get residents to sign up and then to those where service will be offered, to participate,” said Amy Marpman, chair of Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board (QSWAB).
Mary Arnold, co-founder of CURES, a group in central Queens that works to mitigate the impact of freight trains, said composting has the potential to remove more than 30 percent of the waste that is sent to landfills.
“Composting has the potential to reduce waste-by-rail diesel pollution from locomotives that are used to haul the waste and reduce noise in the middle of the night, especially from moving giant rail cars about to old locomotive engines,” she said.

NYC needs to restart composting program

One of the best ways for New Yorkers to significantly lower their greenhouse gas emissions is by separating their food waste, and handing it off to the city’s organics collection program, also known as composting.
One-third of the city’s waste stream is made up of organic waste, much of it from food scraps and leftovers.
When food waste isn’t separated from regular garbage, it’s often sent to be burned in incinerators or buried in landfills, where it decomposes in the absence of oxygen and produces the greenhouse gas methane, which is up to 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S., and produced about 15 percent of U.S. emissions in 2018.
Landfills around the country are filling up and becoming more costly for cities to use for their waste. To meet the city’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, we will need to prioritize composting our organic waste.
New York City has had the largest curbside organics recycling program in the world, serving 3.3 million people, supplemented by many food scraps drop-off sites throughout the five boroughs.
To fund emergency responses to the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio cut $28 million for food waste collection and composting from the Department of Sanitation’s budget, which led to the suspension of many related programs in spring of 2020.
The mayor recently announced that curbside organic collection will be starting back up in communities where it was offered prior to the pandemic, but that service wasn’t available in Forest Hills.
All we had available was a weekly food waste drop-off site at the MacDonald Park greenmarket on Sundays, and the volunteer-run Compost Collective on Yellowstone Boulevard and Kessel Street on Saturdays.
Ever since that service was suspended, residents were asked to discard food scraps and yard waste with their trash, which has resulted in a tremendous loss of momentum for these vital programs.
Community outreach will have to be redoubled before their reintroduction. We urge the mayor and City Council to restore funding to composting‬ and recycling programs as soon as possible, and to invest in community education about the many benefits of composting.
Fortunately, another option will soon be available. Starting May 16, Queens Botanical Garden is partnering with volunteers from Forest Hills Green Team and Friends of MacDonald Park, who will staff a Sunday food waste drop-off collection site at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills adjacent to the greenmarket.
Residents will be able to drop off their food scraps between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. QBG will pick up their containers and compost the food waste at their main facility. The finished compost will be returned to the community for distribution at the site.
QBG is seeking other organizations willing to host food waste drop-off locations in their community, perhaps where sites have previously been co-located at some of the 50-plus greenmarkets operated by GrowNYC.
We encourage other local groups to partner in these important efforts towards a sustainable future, and look forward to seeing our neighbors at our new composting site.

Dan Miner is co-chair of the Forest Hills Green Team. Aleda Gagarin is candidate for City Council District 29.

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