Program teaching how to compost cut from NYC budget, as compost numbers 'poor,' says report

Kristin Thorne Image
Monday, April 22, 2024
Program teaching how to compost cut from NYC budget
Kristin Thorne has the story on composting.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City's curbside composting is not off to a good start with low participation, according to a recent study, just as the Adams administration pulled funding for a program that could help encourage people to compost.

The city's community composting program, which has been in existence since the 1990's, teaches New Yorkers what composting is and how to do it.

In November, New York City Mayor Eric Adams pulled from the city budget the entire funding stream for community composting - $7.1 million.

A spokesperson for the Mayor's office told Eyewitness News it was not the only program that was cut as a result of lower tax revenue, the end of COVID stimulus money and, of course, the migrant crisis.

"It really doesn't make sense why he wouldn't support the community composters who are trying to make his initiatives successful," Marisa DeDominicis said.

DeDominicis's group, Earth Matter NY, is responsible for heading up a community composting site on Governor's Island, which has been in operation since 2009. The public site allows New Yorkers to see first-hand how composting works and it also includes a compost learning center.

"We have groups come from all over the city to be able to learn about composting," DeDominicis said.

The site also processes all the food scraps and yard waste produced on Governor's Island itself, including from the high school and any event held there. The site also processes food that people drop off at farmers' markets throughout the city.

DeDominicis said last year the Governor's Island composting site processed 800 tons of food scraps and yard waste. The compost is turned into high-quality soil which is used throughout the city's gardens and parks.

DeDominicis said a private donor immediately stepped in to keep the program running until March. But from March through June, the program will rely on private donations to keep afloat.

"Community composting shouldn't have to rely on private philanthropy at all," New York City Councilman Shaun Abreu said. "This is something that for good government, government should be doing."

Abreu, the chair of the New York City Council's Sanitation Committee, along with the entire city council, have called upon Adams to restore the $7.1 million.

"It was his decision to cut community composting," Abreu said. "We believe it is his obligation to restore it."

In February 2023, Adams announced the city would have the largest composting program on the planet, saying that eventually every borough would have curbside composting.

Queens was the first borough to get the sidewalk composting bins in early 2023.

A professor at Baruch College studied the composting rates in Queens over the last year and called it a "poor performance."

Adjunct Assistant Professor Samantha MacBride said in 2023 only 4.3% of residential compost that could have been collected in Queens actually was, meaning more than 95% of composting material ended up in the trash.

"The capture rate, per household generation rate, and total tonnage of residential Curbside Organics is lower today than it was in Queens under the previous administrations, when it was already low," MacBride wrote in a recent report.

Supporters of community composting said that's why the funding for the program needs to be restored.

"For a lot of people community composting is still very complicated and a hard thing to do," Abreu said. "Those bins will not be used without the education and without the support of community composting organizations."

Curbside composting is set to begin in Manhattan this fall.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Mayor's Office to ask if he is considering restoring the funding for community composting. A spokesperson said the budget process is ongoing and officials are still looking at which city programs which were cut could be restored.

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