New York City is preparing to expand an experimental food-recycling program across the city in what supporters say is a historic move to eliminate landfill waste and save the city money, but critics fear it will soon be a burdensome new source of citations and frustration for residents.
The collected organic material could save the city as much as $100 million a year on trash export costs, deputy sanitation commissioner Ron Gonen told The New York Times. That figure was calculated by reducing the city's non-recyclable trash volume by one-third.
Caswell Holloway, one of the city's six deputy mayors, told the Times the city is hiring a company to compost up to 100,000 tons of organic material annually - or about 10 percent of the city's trash. The waste will reportedly be composted and reused in city parks, with future plans to use the material to generate electricity.
Around 150,000 single-family homes, 100 apartment buildings and 600 schools will be enrolled in the program by next year, the Times reports. By 2015 or 2016, the officials expect all residents to be enrolled, with participation becoming mandatory.
Failure to comply with the program won't initially be punished, but when a pilot program was launched earlier this year in Staten Island, skeptics feared heavy-handed enforcement and fines would soon follow.
"I've kind of seen this movie before, and they do the pilot program on Staten Island and the moment the pilot program stops, the enforcement starts," city councilman James Oddo, a Republican from Staten Island, told the New York Daily News in February.
Restaurants were also uneasy about the idea. "We hope that costs for restaurants and small businesses that use containers are considered as much as the environmental impact," Andrew Moesel of the New York Restaurant Association told the Daily News.
According to information posted on the New York City Department of Sanitation's website, failure to place garbage in the proper receptacles currently earns residents a fine between $100 to $300. New Yorkers already have three garbage containers: one bin for non-recyclables, a green one for paper and cardboard, and a blue bin for metal, plastic and glass.
New Yorkers enrolled in the program will be given two new containers, one for their kitchen and another to take to the curb for collection.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is leaving office later this year after serving three terms. The billionaire businessman is derisively known as "Nanny Bloomberg" by critics for his efforts to criminalize public smoking and a ban on soda sales larger than 16 ounces. Several of the candidates seeking to replace him – including current City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the race's front-runner – expressed support for the new garbage program.