Approximately half of New York City’s residential waste is organic matter (food scraps, food-soiled paper, yard waste). Historically, the city has collected organic matter together with other residential waste, which has both perpetuated the city’s rat problem and emits greenhouse gasses from landfills. Composting is a process that separates organic matter from other waste and facilitates aerobic decomposition (i.e. with oxygen), preventing methane production and reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Until now, San Francisco and Seattle have been the only US cities to mandate composting on a citywide level. NYC has previously installed smart composting bins throughout the city and has had an active curbside organics collection service throughout Queens and in several Community Boards in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.
On June 8, 2023, The New York City Council passed a new Local Law dubbed the Zero Waste Act, that sets zero waste targets for 2030, annual reporting on efforts and—in a significant move for residential buildings—includes a mandate for composting that includes separating and collecting organic waste for all residential buildings in NYC. Driven by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), the Zero Waste Act will also require one recycling center and at least three organics drop-off sites to be established in each district. NYC’s overarching aim is to send zero recyclable or compostable waste to landfills by 2030.
What does this mean for your building?
Landlords and building managers are responsible for ensuring that residents have the resources and support to separate organic waste from landfill trash to comply with the new mandate. The separation and collection of organic waste will be enforced by fines starting April 2025. The fines will be similar to existing fines for recycling, ranging from $25 to $400 depending on the number of building units and offenses.
DSNY will distribute brown bins to buildings that will receive curbside organics collection for the first time. However, compost can also be collected in any rigid plastic bin under 55 gallons as long as it has a secure lid and the appropriate government decal.
When does this affect your building?
Certain areas—all of Queens and certain Community Boards across Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan already have curbside organics collection services. Curbside organics collection will roll out in remaining areas on the following dates, with collection scheduled on the same day as recycling pick-up.
The separation of organic waste will become mandatory across all five boroughs in April 2025.
Compost can also be dropped off at any time at new collection sites placed across the city, and DSNY will also produce educational materials on the separation of organic waste from landfill trash. Multilingual communication has been critical to the success of composting initiatives in San Francisco and Seattle, and NYC landlords and building managers should take similar efforts to translate city communications for diverse resident groups.
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