Zero Waste Act Brings Compulsory Composting to NYC

By Anna Brinkman, age 10

Image by Emmet on Pexels

In June, the New York City Council passed a law that will require everyone to compost their food waste to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. 

Under the Zero Waste Act, composting will be mandatory in all five boroughs by April 2025. The rollout will begin in October 2023 with Queens and Brooklyn, followed by the Bronx and Staten Island in March 2024 and Manhattan in October 2024. Some New Yorkers are already composting by volunteering in a city program which began in the spring.

According to the New York City Department of Sanitation, 8 million pounds of waste is generated every day, most of which currently goes to landfills. Landfills are bad for our environment. When food scraps and other biodegradable things are left to rot, they emit methane. In fact, landfills contribute 67 million metric tons of methane, or 20% of all methane emissions globally. According to a U.N. report, methane is 80 times more harmful than carbon dioxide and is responsible for 25% of global warming.

Instead of just sorting recyclables from garbage, under the new law, New Yorkers will have to sort compost, recycling and garbage into separate bins. If the landlord or the building owner does not follow these rules, they will have to pay a fine. 

The Zero Waste Act is similar to South Korea’s law, which has banned food scraps from landfills since 2005. In South Korea, food waste is processed and used to heat houses and feed farm animals. The program costs $600 million a year, and citizens pay a small fee to dispose of food waste.

However, with this new law, New York City will require new trucks and bins, which has raised concerns among some, including Bayside resident Robin Tillier, who spoke to CBS News. “It’s just costing a lot of money, I guess, to keep hiring different people to pick up your garbage,” Tillier said. The Zero Waste Act will cost up to $45 million.

Other New Yorkers are excited to help reduce the city’s carbon footprint. “We love it, especially because we help the environment,” Woodside resident Amarylis Rodriguez, who is involved in volunteer composting, told CBS News.

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