“Composting should not be thought of like the after-school clarinet program,” said Eric Goldstein, New York City environment director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Composting needs to be seen as an essential sanitation service, just like collecting the rubbish, sweeping the streets or removing the snow.”

But even before the pandemic, the program had stalled, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Zero Waste” initiative, which aimed for a 90 percent reduction in landfill use by 2030.

Advocates pointed to the program’s limited scope to explain why compost pickup was not considered part of the Sanitation Department’s core services when officials made budget cuts. Before the pandemic, less than half of city residents had the option to request the program’s brown bins. In the neighborhoods where bins were available, just 5 to 30 percent of residents used them.

The program had yet to reach much of South Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. (Ms. Lin, who lives in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood, has never had the option to request curbside organics pick-up.)

Composting was only offered to certain areas, which “left out a lot of Black and brown communities,” said Ceci Pineda, 30, the executive director of BK ROT, a bike-powered food-waste collection and composting service based in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Skeptics say that mandatory composting could be prohibitively pricey. A 2016 report by the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, concluded that separate collection of organics would cost New York between $177 million and $251 million annually.

“We may make some revenue off of compost in the future, but there are still costs to collection and processing,” said Ms. Garcia, the sanitation commissioner. “It’s not free. It doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do, but it’s not free.”

source: nytimes.com

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