The new Queens compost program has collected more than 12.7 million pounds of organic waste in just three months, proving that New Yorkers are eager to participate in the environmentally friendly effort, according to Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch.
The participation rate in the boroughwide program eclipses the 2.1 million pounds of organic waste produced by seven districts in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan over the same period that also have compost collection service.
The program launched in October.
“For 20 years, the city has been trying to develop a successful and a sustainable model for organics collection. And Mayor [Eric] Adams promised that to New Yorkers, and I think it shows that he's delivering on it,” Tisch told Gothamist on Thursday.
The Queens program is on pause following the fall yard waste season. Collection will resume on March 27.
Tisch attributed the programs’ success to the fact that residents are automatically enrolled and do not need special bins.
“We relaxed or got rid of a lot of onerous requirements of the opt-in program, where first the residents had to express interest and then they had to raise their hands again to opt into the service,” Tisch said.
The city sorts out large woody debris from the collected organic waste, which is sent to a compost facility in New Jersey. The remaining organic waste is slurried and sent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant at Newtown Creek in Greenpoint – where a long-promised project with National Grid to turn organic waste into biogas is set to launch – or the Pine Island Farm in Massachusetts.
The Queens program also cost the sanitation department a fraction of what curbside compost pickup costs for the rest of the city. The city spent $467,000 there, compared to more than $1.6 million to pick up organic waste from the other seven districts. Tisch said the savings came from smart decisions on personnel and fleet deployment. The department was able to simultaneously collect both compost and regular household waste on the majority of its routes in Queens, which helped save money.
When asked when compost curbside service would be expanded, Tisch said the sanitation department is analyzing data from the Queens program.
“We're going to review it and make our plans for expansion of the program accordingly,” she said.
Councilmember Sandy Nurse, the chair of the City Council’s sanitation committee, said the success of the Queens program was promising. She said it was time for a “universal mandatory curbside organics program.”
“The only way to achieve high participation levels, which will also reduce rats, is through mandating a consistent, reliable program with substantial investments in ongoing education and awareness campaigns,” Nurse said in a statement.