NYC’s Composting Program Is Too Trashy for Most Facilities

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If you live in a neighborhood with those brown composting bins into which you painstakingly sort banana peels and fish skins for collection, here’s some news: WNYC reports that the Delaware processing plant that takes the city’s compost was shut down last month, leaving New Yorkers without a place to send the bulk of our organic garbage.

The Peninsula Composting Group’s Wilmington-based site was closed after the state declined to renew its license, thanks to evidence of extreme detritus build-up and poorly functioning equipment, as well as complaints from neighbors who carped about the (not surprisingly) awful stench. But Peninsula was one of the few composting centers equipped to deal with New York City’s very contaminated compostable trash. According to WNYC, the facility took vegetable, fruits, and leaves, but also materials such as eggs and rotting bones and greasy napkins, among other probably gross-smelling things allowed under the city’s pilot program. This particular center also made up for poor trash-sorters by “using magnets to pull out metals and employees to pick out plastics and other non-organic stuff,” including the approved plastic liners participants could put inside bins.

While the city is still sending compost — mostly from the approximately 100,000 residences — to centers in Staten Island, Connecticut, and upstate New York, the remainder, primarily from participating schools, is ending up with all the other regular trash in the landfill. The Department of Sanitation pilot program, which started in 2012 and has expanded since, is now trying to figure out ways to make our compost just a bit more natural. But changes to the program will probably take some time, so maybe just bookmark Dante de Blasio’s composting lesson until then.

*This post has been updated with information from Vito Turso, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information & Community Affairs with the NYC Department of Sanitation.