Last month, Mayor Eric Adams released his Preliminary Budget for the upcoming NYC Fiscal Year 2023. Included in the proposed budget is a plan to suspend the expansion of the City’s composting program and cut funding for the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) by $47.8 million. The City Council opposed these cuts by calling on the Administration to restore funding to DSNY, and include an allocation of $18.2 million to invest in the composting pilot.
NYLCV has been a firm supporter of the curbside composting pilot, and was disappointed to see the Mayor go back on his commitments to the program. Building out a comprehensive and eco-friendly waste management system is critical to improving public safety, health, and environmental sustainability in every neighborhood across the City.
Nearly one third of the waste New Yorkers produce is organic material. When this material ends up in landfills, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Through an organized composting process, this food waste would be collected, broken down, and recycled into fertilizer for plants and farms. According to an estimate from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, eliminating food waste across the state would remove 120,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents from the atmosphere per year. That’s the equivalent of taking over 25,000 cars off the road.
Though the city has tried improving its organic collection process over the last decade, only a small fraction of our leftover food is actually diverted from landfills. Creating a more reliable and accessible composting system would make the separation of food waste convenient and hygienic, and improve the quality of life throughout our community.
Neighborhoods near landfills and incinerators, most often low income communities of color, are the ones whose environments, public health, and social justice, could benefit heavily by improved composting systems. The higher rates of pollution in these communities cause disproportionately higher cases of asthma, cancer, and other health issues and compound already existing environmental and racial inequities.
Campaigns to expand composting and reduce food waste have seen success nationwide. First instituted in 2005, Seattle’s program saw strong results within the first decade— by 2013 71% of discards by residents were either recycled or composted. In contrast, NYC is currently recycling at a paltry 17% clip.
The City should also be utilizing a multitude of approaches to organic waste management, not just with our curbside pilot, but also with public private partnerships and community composting drop off sites. With long-term commitment and cooperation from public officials and businesses, we can catch up with other major cities and get our waste system back on track.
It is critical that the Mayor reverses his proposed cuts to our essential sanitation services. If we are to achieve our City’s goal of eliminating all waste sent to landfills by 2030 and improve the health and safety of our residents, we must be investing in expansions and overhauls to our current DSNY systems and programs.
Though it was disappointing to see the Administration fail to follow through with their commitments, NYLCV was delighted by City Council’s demands to invest in the sustainable waste management program. We look forward to working with the Council and Administration to restore the program into the finalized FY 2023 budget, and start truly investing in the sanitation of our City.
By Wilson Taylor and Sabrina Pangione