Plans to expand program are on hold as gag-inducing pong and vermin are holding back residents, foodies and hipsters from saving food scraps
It was meant to be an ambitious environmental program but efforts at composting in New York are breaking down amid rats, roaches and rank smells.
New Yorkers are relatively good at recycling but an ick factor is holding them back from saving food scraps for reprocessing, the authorities admitted.
In a sweaty city that regularly has back to back humid days in the eighties and nineties Fahrenheit all summer, some householders are recoiling from the scheme in a cloud of fruit flies.
Now plans to expand New Yorks organics collection program are on hold as even eco-minded residents, foodies and hipsters wrestle with the idea of bags of putrid mush sitting on their kitchen counter tops awaiting disposal.
City-issued large brown plastic collection bins that are put out on the sidewalk have special fastening lids to keep out vermin but, full of deteriorating leftovers, still often exude a gag-inducing pong when opened.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a pilot program five years ago, hoping hundreds of thousands of tons of this food-loving citys leftovers and grass mowings would be churning their way through the system, to be turned into alternative energy or fertilizing compost.
But expansion has been put on hold because there is insufficient participation to be cost-effective. The city collected only about 13,000 tons last year and found that the 3.5 million people currently in the voluntary program are only separating 10.6% percent of their potential scraps.
Honestly, I think its a complete waste of time, says Anselmo Ariza, who maintains the trash and recycling bins for several blocks of apartment buildings in Brooklyn. Some people use them, but most of them just put trash and plastic bags in there.
Marzena Golonka complained that the citys weekly pickup at her apartment building in Brooklyn is not frequent enough to keep the stink and rats away.
Its vile, she says. Until sanitation starts doing their job effectively, Im not going to have a brown bin.
De Blasios goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030 depends on residents and businesses separating their organic waste, which currently makes up a third of the trash that ends up in landfills and is a major producer of greenhouse gases.
The city is still committed to expanding the program to all 8.5 million New York City residents, but right now is focused on making the system more efficient, sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.
We are having to overcome the ick factor, Garcia said.