New York City’s organic waste pilot program making strides

| July 31, 2014

If Haley Rogers and Lisa Brunie-McDermott their way, folks in the Big Apple will be more responsible with their big apple cores after they’re finished with them. And their tea bags. And their coffee grounds. And their banana peels. And the second half of that flaxseed muffin that seemed like a good idea at the coffee shop but actually tastes like cardboard.

Rogers and Brunie-McDermott work in outreach for the New York City sanitation department, and Constance Rosenblum of the New York Times recently featured their efforts “to persuade New Yorkers to separate orange peels, eggshells and other organic waste from the rest of their trash.”

organic waste

Haley Rogers and Lisa Brunie-McDermott want more New Yorkers to get comfortable with the idea of composting. From Morgan.

We’ve written before about New York City’s typically progressive approach to tackling food waste and other recycling challenges. This two-year organic waste pilot is the latest and greatest effort. Rosenblum reports that the program, which was allocated $10 million over the past year, is “up and running in all five boroughs, embracing 100,000 households that are home to about 250,000 people. It is also operating in some 350 schools, one result being that children come home and urge their parents to sign up.”

Participants in the program use special brown bins for organic waste. Separating organic waste accomplishes several tasks:

1) The organic waste can be turned into productive compost;

2) Diverting organic waste reduces the amount of waste that has to be trucked away to “distant landfills” at great expense to the city; and

3) Keeping organic waste out of standard trash containers should reduce the number of ravenous rats in the city who would typically prowl around garbage cans looking for food.

Of all the reasons to separate organic waste, the third one seems to be most compelling to New Yorkers. “When we talk to people, lots of times we lead with the rats, because they’re such a visceral issue,” said Rogers. “It’s like we’re giving them a buffet every night.”

There’s a steep learning curve inherent in the program, and that’s where Rogers and Brunie-McDermott come in. They’re focused on creating awareness for organic waste separation. They distribute multilingual signs to create awareness in apartment buildings. They talk to residents and building managers. They offer decals, fridge stickers and other “swag” to promote the program. So far, they’ve found that ten percent of people “support the plan unequivocally,” another ten percent resist, and the remaining 80 percent remain in the middle. They’re focused on converting the 80 percent. That means reaching a whole lot of people and overcoming what they call “the yuck factor.”

We know a thing or two about creating awareness for recycling programs, and we wish Rogers and Brunie-McDermott the very best of luck. It’s a worthy pursuit!

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Category: Blog Landing Page, Food, Recycling programs

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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