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Rats Off to Ya!: NYC to Crack Down on Rats, Eventually

Composting goes citywide, but only if you want!

9:52 AM EST on January 26, 2023

A huge line of black trash bags gobbles up a sidewalk in FiDi.

(Hell Gate)

For over a decade, the City has had a composting program for food waste—sort of. At first, it was only rolled out to a few neighborhoods. Then, it was rolled back in. This fall, it was rolled back out, but only in Queens—this winter, it was rolled back in. And now, well, we’re rolling it all the way out. Kind of. 

Today, as part of his State of the City address, Mayor Eric Adams will announce that composting will now be expanded to all five boroughs—by 2024. The program will not be mandatory, something that the City’s sanitation commissioner, Jesica Tisch, says will help New Yorkers “get used to it.” 

The program in Queens this fall was a moderate success; still, the City ended the program over the winter with dubious justifcation, leaving Queens composters in the lurch. According to details provided to the New York Times, the program will be restarted in Queens this March, head to Brooklyn in October, and then…wait for it….*rat’s lining up next to a pile of trash like they’re at the chocolate fountain at a Golden Corral*...*the earth completes a rotation around the sun as hot garbage bags throb ominously on Canal Street*...the Bronx and Staten Island in March 2024…and then…*18 generations of rats are born, fed by the same Upper West Side apartment building’s collection of coffee grounds and pizza crusts*....*a Chelsea rat becomes a minor celebrity after it pops off a table where it was snacking on fries and begins to perform karaoke*...finally, Manhattan in October 2024. 

“By launching the largest curbside composting program in the country, we’ll be dealing a blow to New York City’s rats, cleaning up our streets and keeping millions of pounds of kitchen and yard waste out of landfills,” Adams said in a statement to the Times. “By the end of 2024, every New Yorker, all 8.5 million people, will have the solution they’ve been waiting two decades for, and I’m proud my administration was able to get it done.”

This isn’t quite the be-all, end-all solution Adams thinks it could be. Right now, organics make up one-third of the city’s waste stream, and the City diverts almost none of it. With a citywide organics collection program, a lot of that waste could be diverted, but successful cities have made this collection, like recycling, mandatory. The de Blasio administration pledged to get New York City to zero waste by 2030, with none of its trash going to landfills. Right now, that pledge looks completely unattainable, according to Tisch. When organics aren't composted, they contribute to global warming, becoming methane, a greenhouse gas, once put in a landfill. The City has mandated that businesses separate their organics—but those bags left outside your favorite diner say something about the level of enforcement. 

Still, it’s a start. Which leads us to wonder, what’s up with the other tried-and-true solution to our rat issue—containerization of the city’s trash? It’s still a pilot program, for now! But hey, that’s how composting started, and after twelve years of really seeing if this “organics in separate container” thing works, it might actually be coming soon to a curbside near you. So there’s hope!

Some links to start your extremely mild outside Thursday:

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