NYC Must Ensure We Keep Organic Recycling Sites

The New York City Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management and the Committee on Parks and Recreation held a hearing on Friday, December 18th about the future of two important community organic waste recycling sites. Our New York City Policy Associate Carlos Castell Croke testified at the hearing.

NYC has faced significant economic setbacks over the past few months due to the COVID pandemic, including suspending its organic waste collection program. Many community composting sites that receive funding from the city are also on the chopping block. Licenses for the Lower East Side Ecology Center (LESEC) and Big Reuse composting are set to expire at the end of 2020.  However, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Sanitation (DOS) testified at the hearing and stated that they are working on solutions for these sites.  The LESEC offices will be moved temporarily to Seward park while construction occurs at their original location. DOS is actively looking for a site suitable for the relocation of their compost project.  Big Reuse will be granted a 6 month license to keep operating at their current location while another site is found.

During the hearing NYLCV, along with other environmental organizations and community members, pleaded for a solution to keep the organic collection sites operating, and asked that the administration ensure that they would find new sites for these compost projects. Other advocates vouched for the composting sites to continue running at their current locations indefinitely.

Without these composting sites, New York City will continue to fall behind on its ambitious “Zero Waste” goals. This includes a 90% reduction of waste to landfills by 2030. These composting centers alone process over 2 million pounds of food waste each year. The waste is recycled through a decomposition process that provides nutrient-rich, carbon-sequestering soil to NYC parks. Otherwise, this food waste would be processed in the city’s landfills, releasing methane, which in the first 20 years after its release, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Permanently evicting these composting sites will put more organic waste in landfills, which will elevate the city’s levels of GHG emissions and air pollution. Additionally, scrapping these sites will remove good-paying green jobs from city neighborhoods.

NYLCV stated in their testimony and through their advocacy that they will continue to work diligently with other environmental and public interest groups to help Big Reuse and the LESEC. We encourage the City Council to bring this issue to the Mayor’s attention and urge him to keep his promise of finding new locations for both compost projects.