Last Wednesday, Councilman Keith Powers introduced the Community Organics and Recycling Empowerment (CORE) Act, which would require at least three organics drop-off sites in each community district. The sites would also take in electronic and hazardous waste in addition to compost.
The bill comes after the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) temporarily suspended curbside composting starting on May 4 due to COVID-19 budget cuts. The agency also discontinued its electronics collection appointments.
The suspension, planned through June 30, 2021, means food scraps and yard waste set out for composting will be collected as trash.
“Even as we are in a pandemic many of us feel this is a priority,” the Manhattan lawmaker said. “We have to prioritize our city’s health and the earth.”
Councilman Antonio Reynoso, chair of the City Council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, called the city’s budget cut “very concerning.”
He said the CORE Act, which has 11 co-sponsors so far, will allow all residents to have a site within a reasonable distance from their homes to compost and recycle.
“It’s really going to set the tone for how we look at trash for the future,” Reynoso said. “These sites could be the foundation for which we work toward our recycling and sanitation needs.”
Councilman Brad Lander said he’s unhappy that the city is in this position. He said if officials had the “courage and foresight” to implement a stronger citywide curbside compost program by making it mandatory or adding incentives, the city could have already had a program that saves money.
“Because we did not move more quickly, now we have this small patchwork program that costs us money,” he said, “and we had to suspend it.”
Environmental advocates spoke about the importance of composting, including the improvement of air quality in overburdened communities. They also noted its importance in the fight against climate change.
“We cannot continue to pretend as if we have another planet or 10 more years to address this issue,” said Chio Valerio-Gonzalez, organizing director at ALIGN. “We have seven years.”
“Responding to the challenge of climate change cannot take a backseat,” added Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, another supporter of the bill. “We all feel strongly about that.”
Reynoso said city officials are now doing a financial analysis of the legislation, which is required to pass the bill. That will provide information on how much money it will save the city, he said.
“Our ultimate goal is to get mandatory organics citywide,” he said. “This would be a transition from where we are in the pandemic toward the mandatory recycling when we get there eventually.”