New York

Pause at Queens Compost Pilot Leaves Attendees in Dump

Gloria Boyce-Charles started sorting her food waste last spring, packing it in brown bags and storing it in the freezer in the basement of her South East Queens home.

A retired Brookville resident says he intended to take the scrap to a compost dump, but couldn’t get there. As such, the bag was kept in her freezer.

“It was seamless. All I had to do was put it on the curb the same day as the recycling,” Boyce-Charles said.

Both she and DSNY consider the pilot program a success. Queens residents diverted about 12.7 million pounds of organic matter that would otherwise end up in landfills, according to the department.

However, in December, the program “during winter break” Until March.

“I am personally disappointed that the composting program has been suspended,” Boyce-Charles told THE CITY. We have to work harder on where we throw our waste.”

Health officials had scheduled a three-month hold as the program focuses on outdoor organic matter. “As any New Yorker can look outside, there isn’t much trash in the yard in the winter, so the program will be on hiatus for a bit until it resumes in his March,” DSNY spokesperson Vincent Gragnani said on the e-mail. I am writing to you by email.

But for many program participants and cheerleaders, breaks are frustrating failures.

Eunice Lau, a filmmaker and avid composter who helped neighbors board their Long Island City condos, said: “There may not be as much trash in the garden in winter, but people don’t stop eating it.”

Queens BP’s Donovan Richards has called on the Department of Health to reconsider the composting moratorium.

Hiram Alejandro Duran/THE CITY

On Thursday, Queens President Donovan Richards said: letter Health Commissioner Jessica Tisch — praised the program and asked her to lift the suspension.

“This is an undisputed victory that should be taken advantage of and continued rather than interrupted,” Richards wrote in a letter shared with THE CITY.

Asked about BP’s letter, DSNY spokesperson Joshua Goodman said BP will “certainly take his feedback into consideration for next year.”

up in smoke

Converting food, garden scraps, and other organic matter into agricultural compost and energy is good for the environment in several ways. It prevents the production of methane, a greenhouse gas. This practice also reduces food waste left in sidewalk trash bags that attract rats and other vermin.

But some of the scrap from DSNY’s composting program may burn to the sky.

A portion of the organic material is sent to a composting facility in New Jersey, a portion is sent to Pine Island Farms “Biogas” in western Massachusetts, and a portion of it is poured into the “Biogas”.anaerobic digestive systemat the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn – theoretically used for energy.

DSNY said it couldn’t provide a specific breakdown of how much material is sent to each location, but it’s unclear how much is being converted to biogas at Newton Creek. .

The project, led by the Environmental Protection Agency and National Grid, has been plagued with delays. THE CITY previously reportedThe delay meant that methane from the digestion process was burned into the atmosphere instead of being sent to customers’ homes.

The Flare Tower at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Friday, April 12, 2022.

Hiram Alejandro Duran/THE CITY

National Grid said Friday that the plant, originally scheduled to come on stream in 2015, is now partially operational.

National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young said in an email: “We are committed to providing this important source of clean energy.”

During the suspension of the composting program, Queens residents will be able to separate organic matter from recyclables and waste, while sanitation workers will dispose of the contents of brown bins with their trash.

“There may not be as much trash in the garden in winter, but people don’t stop eating it.”

Alternatively, composters can bring organic materials to DSNY. drop off site Or leave it in a ‘smart bin’ only found in Astoria, Queens, and parts of Manhattan. But many say these options rarely have a convenient location or time.

“We always say our area is a desert when it comes to dump sites,” said Andrea Scarborough of Addisley Park in southeast Queens.

Her Community District 12 had the highest amount of organic matter collected during the first run of the pilot program from October to December. Previously, Scarborough delivered organic matter to the Queens County Farm Museum in Little Neck. Because of that, we were driving up to 25 minutes. She plans to return to that routine.

“I wish I didn’t have to. I was really spoiled by it. I really hope they take it back and bring it back soon,” said Scarborough. I didn’t want it to stop.You will eventually get your neighbors to buy into this and stop it.If you’re trying to move people in the direction of moving waste out of composting or landfills, it’s wrong. It’s an approach.”

change habits

Lou Reyes, who runs a compost drop-off site as part of Astoria Pug Since DSNY launched its universal program, he’s noticed a lot less material at his fingertips, he told his partner.

“I don’t see it as a negative thing. I think more people are composting and choosing the closest and most convenient alternative to them,” he said. . Then I think it’s really difficult.”

At College Point Rehab and Leavitt Houses, two of DSNY’s public housing developments included in the Curbside Organic program, NYCHA made an effort to “support behavioral change toward sorting food waste” during the suspension. said Nekoro Gomes, a spokesman for the housing authority, in an email. .

NYCHA is bringing materials collected from these two complexes into Astoria House. compost power.

“Some residents have really gotten used to doing this at the end of November,” Morales said. “Do we really care about zero waste? It’s a mistake to show people that you care, but you don’t care for three months.”

A compost bin in Union Square Park on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Hiram Alejandro Duran/THE CITY

Morales noted that while DSNY accepts all organic materials, many community composting efforts, including his, do not process meat, bones, or dairy. That means he and other volunteers will have to decontaminate the stream if people don’t limit what they separate during the pause.

“We’re getting material from two developments in Queens, so we need to separate the waste,” says Morales. “The brown trash system was so easy for residents, and everything else was just culture shock.”

At Brookville, Boyce-Charles acknowledged the need to know what materials were accepted by the sites where he would end up bringing his organic products.

“I don’t want to lose my habits and I know how important it is,” she said. , it is important that we do what we can to stop it, and that is the right thing to do for the health of the planet and the health of all.”

For City Councilman Sandy Nurse, who chairs the Health Committee, the program’s popularity and current suspension Universal Organic Collectionthe plan for Introduced on board last spring.

“What we really need is a codified citywide program that is mandatory and rolled out to everyone,” she said. has seen this process of stopping and starting, and that is why it is so important that the bill is passed.”

DSNY compost bag.

Michael Appleton/Mayor’s Photo Office Pause at Queens Compost Pilot Leaves Attendees in Dump

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