- The City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) told city council members Thursday it has put a "temporary" hold on efforts to expand the city's organics collection program to all residents, according to a report from Politico.
- Spokesman Vito Turso said a modified expansion schedule will be unveiled in the "coming months" as the department looks to improve efficiencies of the current service. "We believe that for the program to be successful, we must ensure New Yorkers are getting the very best service when curbside organics collection reaches their neighborhood," said DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, according to Politico.
- There are currently 3.5 million residents who are eligible to participate in the collection program, which is available to all Manhattan residents and some districts of Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens. Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the decision to suspend the expansion is "short-sighted" and called on Mayor de Blasio to resume it.
In April, the city released its 2017 waste characterization study, which found curbside organics collection yielded low tonnage but also had low contamination rates. New York has long sought to become the organics diversion capital of the country, and while the city is home to the largest curbside residential organics program in the U.S., there is potential for tonnage to be increased.
While the expansion of this program is put on standby, efforts to expand New York's commercial organics diversion mandate are making headway. In February, DSNY published final rules to expand the mandate, which will cover restaurants with floor areas of at least 15,000 square feet (up from 7,000), chain establishments with at least 100 locations in the city (up from 50) and food retailers with at least 25,000 square feet of floor space (up from 10,000). Such businesses will be required to divert their organics beginning in August, with enforcement to take effect in February 2019.
Waste Dive reported at the time that access to adequate regional processing capacity has been raised as a concern, which could also impact the success of the residential program. DSNY in November confirmed with Waste Dive that it has enough regional capacity; aside from a co-digestion operation at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, the next closest anaerobic digesters listed are in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
According to the most recent statistics from BioCycle, 5.1 million U.S. residents across 326 communities had access to a curbside organics collection program by the end of 2017, a number that has nearly doubled since 2014. As these programs have come to fruition, they have helped dozens of cities reach "zero waste" targets — a goal that is a top priority for New York. Both supporters and opponents of DSNY's decision to delay the expansion of its organics collection program agree that this program is critical for zero waste efforts, which indicates the expansion may truly only be "temporary."