Bloomberg’s Parting Gift for NYC: Mandatory Composting

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Bloomberg, on the slippery slope toward composting. Photo: Chris Hondros/2008 Getty Images

In his latest effort to force New Yorkers to become better, healthier people (whether we like it or not), Mayor Bloomberg plans to put the city on the path toward mandatory food-waste recycling. The mayor alluded to the idea in his State of the City address earlier this year, calling food waste "New York City's final recycling frontier." While that sounds like the least exciting "final frontier" imaginable, pilot programs around the city have been surprisingly successful, and now the Bloomberg administration is making plans to start composting citywide.

Caswell F. Holloway IV, a deputy mayor, tells the New York Times that the administration will soon announce that it's hiring a composting plant to handle 100,000 tons of food waste per year, or about ten percent of the food scraps produced by city residents. Presuming that many New Yorkers will take to this extra step in their recycling routine, the city will also seek proposals in the next year for a company to build a nearby plant to process food waste into biogas, and convert it into electricity.

The program, which should be citywide by 2015 or 2016, would be voluntary at first, but officials expect it to be mandatory in several years. With Mayor Bloomberg leaving office later this year, he won't be around to impose fines on New Yorkers who don't separate their scraps, but both Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio tell the Times that if elected, they intend to keep the plan, and eventually make it mandatory. It's possible that all city residents will accept composting as easily as those in the pilot program, but if not, a potentially stinky brown plastic bin could replace the Big Gulp as the symbol of Bloomberg's nanny state.