Last week, the city started curbside pick-ups in additional districts in Manhattan, Brooklyn and one in The Bronx. The service, which was put on hold throughout the pandemic, resumed this fall based on areas that saw the most residents sign up for it.

City Limits/Manoli Figetakis

Organic waste comprises more than 33 percent of the city’s waste stream.

After a slow restart to the city’s curbside composting pickups in October, the Sanitation Department added several communities in Manhattan, The Bronx and Brooklyn to the program last week, and installed new “smart” collection bins in Queens.

The service, which had been on hold due to the pandemic since March 2020 before resuming in certain districts on a “rolling basis” this fall, originally restarted in Brooklyn Community Board 6, covering Red Hook, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. 

The neighborhoods were selected based on the number of residents who signed up online — in Brooklyn CB6, signups were nearly double that of the district with the next most interested residents.

Last week, the city started the curbside pick-up in additional districts in Manhattan, including the neighborhoods of Stuy Town, Peter Cooper Village, Midtown East, Murray Hill, Manhattan Valley, Upper West Side, Lincoln Square. 

Brooklyn neighborhoods that were added included Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Sunset Park, Industry City, Windsor Terrace and South Slope.

And after successful community engagement in The Bronx, Riverdale and Kingsbridge (Community Board 8) were also included in this week’s roll-out, the only parts of the borough to be included so far

Bob Fanuzzi of Bronx CB8’s Environmental Committee said his district, with the help of Councilmember Eric Dinowitz, lobbied to get the Sanitation Department to measure sign-ups by household rather than address, shifting the focus from single family homes to co-ops.

“We always said that you really should take advantage of the density rather than the single-family homes here,” Fanuzzi told City Limits. 

“That’s really activism from our community and from our elected officials that made that happen,” he said at the committee’s November meeting.

The sign-up approach differs from how the city previously ran the program prior to the pandemic, when it was automatically offered to all residents in areas approved for the service.  The change has been criticized for disproportionately benefiting communities with more affluent New Yorkers. 

“People who are already comfortable and fortunate are more likely to have been educated about the long-term value of composting, be personally familiar with it, and have the time and energy to spend organizing to get neighbors to opt-in,” several Bronx community members wrote in an open letter to DSNY last month. 

But the city has to weigh the environmental benefits of the voluntary program against the increased truck traffic required to pick up the food waste. A report released in the fall by the city’s Independent Budget Office found that low interest in curbside composting makes the service both expensive and potentially not environmentally sustainable; prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the city was diverting just 1.4 percent of its waste to organics collection. 

The Sanitation Department publicly lists the data of households and addresses that have signed up for the program. “We continue to encourage New Yorkers to express their interest online, and we are evaluating these signups monthly to add new neighborhoods, designing smart, efficient routes that save greenhouse gas emissions,” a spokesperson with the department told City Limits.  

The Sanitation Department also recently announced the addition of 16 “smart” bins to collect food scraps in Astoria, Queens, that can be accessed around the clock by a key card. Interested residents can sign up for a free key card and see locations of the bins at this website.

There are also more than 200 regular food-scrap drop-off points around the city, according to the Sanitation Department.  Both regular and “smart” bins accept fruit, vegetables, bones, meat, prepared food, plant waste and food-soiled paper, including tea bags and coffee filters.  

 Those interested in curbside composting can sign up here