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Mayor Bloomberg Poised To Expand Food Scrap Composting Plan

Program To Be In 150,000 Homes By Fall, May One Day Be Mandatory

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Apple cores could someday power the Big Apple. So could chicken bones and stale bagels.

New York City is looking to hire a plant that would turn table scraps and egg shells into biogas to generate electricity.

It’s the next, and perhaps last, big green push for outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has encouraged bike riding and gone after big sodas, smoking in the parks, and Styrofoam containers.

“As we recycle more plastics, we’ll also tackle New York City’s final recycling frontier and that is food waste,” Bloomberg has previously said.

“It is a valuable resource that right now is just being totally lost,” Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Composting is being tested now on Staten Island, and the New York Times reported high levels of participation there.

Westerleigh residents have a mixed reaction to the voluntary pilot  program.

“It works. I mean, this is the composting pail and here’s the regular garbage, which is like half and half right now,” resident Frank Zaffiro told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

“Hasn’t been really a problem, there’s no odors or problems with it. Good idea if it ends up reducing the landfills,” another resident told Haskell.

Ken Bach said he is all in favor of recycling but is not taking part in the composting program.

“They’re giving us blue, green and now brown recycling bins. It’s too much,” he told Haskell.

“It’s a little inconvenient,” added another Westerleigh man.

“That could be a little bad idea. It’s kind of toxic. It’s not good for the household, the kids,” added Daishawn Huff of Chelsea.

“[It] smells. It’s just not clean. It attracts bugs and stuff. I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said N.J. Agwuna of the Upper West Side.

Six weeks into the pilot program, the city indicates more than 40 percent of residents are taking part.

It will expand to 150,000 homes and more than 100 high-rise buildings in the fall. By 2015-2016, it could become mandatory.

A resident gathers food scraps as part of the composting program at the Helena on West 57th Street. (credit: CBS 2)

A resident gathers food scraps as part of the composting program at the Helena on West 57th Street. (credit: CBS 2)

The program is also already in effect at the Helena, a 600-unit building on West 57th Street.

Residents there have been gathering food scraps in brown baskets, located in every apartment. They then take the scraps to an airtight collection bin on every floor. At the Helena they’ve gone from colecting 75 pounds of organic waste a day to 140 pounds. That’s 1,000 pounds a week and that’s only in the month and a half that the program has been in effect, Kramer reported.

“I thought it was going to be a real pain because you’re in a small apartment, and you have to keep, you know, the box and making the food. But it makes our trash disposal so much less,” said resident Brandy Carbone. “There’s no bugs, it’s not dirty, the apartment doesn’t smell. It’s been great.”

“I have a 12-year-old nephew, and I don’t want him to grow up in a world that is dirty or dangerous,” Chelsea resident Daniel Rodriguez told CBS2’s Weijia Jiang.

Organic material represents 30 percent, or 1.2 million tons, of what city dwellers toss out each year. By not sending that to landfills, the city said it would save $100 million per year. The city already spends $336 million a year to dispose of residential trash, most of which is food and food packaging.

“Burying it in the ground is not good for the environment,” Holloway said. “It actually is cheaper if we can figure out how to recycle it at scale.”

The move to expand composting is getting applause from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It allows natural microbes to break down the food without oxygen. That produces methane. Here, we take the methane out and capture it, use it for energy and then use the remainder as compost,” NRDC attorney Eric Goldstein told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. “This is clearly the technology of the future for food waste.”

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