Return of Curbside Compost Collection Is Delayed on the UWS Due to ‘Lack of Demand’; Here’s How to Sign Up

By Carol Tannenhauser

After being suspended in May 2020, because of pandemic-related budget cuts, curbside compost collection service will resume this October in some New York City neighborhoods — but the Upper West Side is not one of them.

The reason, according to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), is lack of “demand.” This could be because, unlike before the pandemic, “buildings must now sign up for the service instead of being automatically enrolled,” Gothamist reported.

“Our curbside composting collection service is based on neighborhood demand,” said Vincent Gragnani, a spokesperson for DSNY, in an email to WSR. “The more people who sign up in a given area, the more likely we are to add that area. While the Upper West Side is not part of the initial rollout in October, we are continuing to evaluate neighborhoods based on signups, and we expect to add new areas every month. We encourage all interested residents to express their interest online at nyc.gov/curbsidecomposting so that we can design the most efficient routes.”

Composting — the recycling of certain organic materials — is a key part of NYC’s plan to reduce emissions that exacerbate global warming. “Food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard waste make up a third of the trash New Yorkers throw away,” Gragnani said. “Rather than send these materials to landfills hundreds of miles away, curbside collection in brown bins helps us turn these materials into compost right here in New York City.”

What’s so bad about landfills (in addition to the fact that they are disproportionately located in disadvantaged areas)?

“Unlike composting sites, waste buried in landfills must break down without oxygen,” Inside Climate News explained. “A byproduct of this anaerobic decomposition is methane, which is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide when measured over a 20-year-period, and a significant contributor to climate change. Landfill emissions are currently the U.S.’s third largest source of human-produced methane. Aerobic composting reduces or eliminates release of methane.”

“The finished compost nourishes our soil for healthier parks and gardens,” Gragnani added. “Also, our brown bins have latching lids that make it harder for rodents and pests to get to your food waste. It’s much easier for them to rip open a bag at the curb. In short, curbside compost collection helps to keep our neighborhoods clean and healthy — and makes our city more sustainable.”

Again, if you would like to see curbside compost collection return to the Upper West Side, you must express your interest by enrolling at nyc.gov/curbsidecomposting.

For a first-person account of why it’s not so hard to compost in an apartment and how to do it, click here. (It was written in 2019, so parts are dated.)

Image via DSNY.

NEWS | 25 comments | permalink
    1. Sid says:

      Thanks for bringing attention to this matter. It’s perplexing, as the compost drop off on Friday morning’s at 97th and Amsterdam is bustling, as is the one on 80th and Columbus on Sundays. I signed up and hope we can get composting!

    2. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      Should never have been terminated. The absolute worst in short term thinking.

    3. Jonathan says:

      Anyone have any idea when the Lincoln Square farmers market will bring its compost program back?

    4. tom says:

      Yes, thanks WR. Hopefully pieces like this will help get the word out that buildings need to take affirmative steps to bring back the pickups.

    5. S says:

      My building didn’t want to do it because they thought it would encourage rodents.

      • G says:

        Our super opposed at first. When we got it he was very content because rats/mice/roaches can’t access the bin since it has a locked lid.
        Less mess outdoors and less rodents running around.

      • Mary says:

        Same experience in my building. The super has essentially nixed it, even though many of us would love to do it.

    6. Guillermo Nasiff says:

      Thanks for your response to my Twitter and for sharing my concern and hopefully we get our compost bins back.

    7. Andrea says:

      My landlord /management said no because rodents will get in if lids aren’t shut… Like they dont get into the trash that currently have no lids? Laziness & stupidity sure do prevent us from having nice things like clean sidewalks devoid of chicken bones that dogs can choke on. The city needs to make it mandatory instead of penalizing residents who’s management is just obstinate

    8. Robert V. Cassara says:

      You have heard about the carrot and stick approach. If you want people to get on board with composting then offer them a carrot, like a reduction or a rebate on their real estate taxes, or possible city income taxes, free tickets to a ball game, etc. whatever. Since you are signing people up and have their names it could be easy to put a scannable bar code on their compost pails and have them scanned at pick up. The more compost they contribute the more credits begin to build up. Simple. Your compost collections should skyrocket and save us all a lot in landfill costs and shipping the waste out of town.

    9. Caroline Press says:

      Buildings were never automatically enrolled.
      My building signed up to resume organics recycling — which we had signed up for years ago—and was told this week that there weren’t enough buildings in the neighborhood participating. So far my questions about how the neighborhood is defined and what level of building participation is required before pick up will resume have gone unanswered. The UWS is where they piloted organics recycling —inconceivable that there isn’t enough demand here again.

    10. Sharon says:

      My Super loves it. No rodents, no smell, less mess.
      Ask your building manager or owner to sign up. Right now only District 6 in Brooklyn qualifies.

    11. Michelle says:

      Another opportunity to mobilize NYers and get things done. Please post the flyers in your building common spaces & have multiple residents in the buildings request this service to building management. It is only when the demand is loud that service will be provided. In my building, more people that didn’t plan or know about it started composting once the bins were in the building & were educated. It is such an important service that needs to be constant in this city.

    12. B.B. says:

      If city went back to requiring all trash to be placed in rodent proof containers with tight fitting/locked lids, rodent population would drop.

      As things stand long as lids are kept closed and locked on compost bins there is little to worry about on rodent front.

      Of course if compost bins are visited by same persons who overturn and scatter contents of trash cans, that would be a different matter.

    13. Nicole says:

      The DSNY needs to do much more to educate people, especially supers, with clear and specific guidance, and then offer incentives to participate. My super refuses even though there are rats running in and out of the mountains of garbage that sit on our sidewalk overnight. At the very least, the DSNY should offer more drop-off sites.

      • B.B. says:

        Plenty of residents of both UES and UWS I know received post cards from DSNY about composting. Gist of the mailer was how DSNY needed people to sign up in order for service to begin. So far few takers…

        One suspects it may take time to build back up momentum. Many persons fled city over past 18 months or so. New people moving in and replacing may not be of same demographics or mindset as those who departed.

    14. Sugarqueen says:

      The DSNY offers The Rat Academy ( very informative seminar regarding rats)to educate landlords and anyone interested in ways to reduce the rat population in NYC. The program is free. You can watch the program virtually and it may convince many to opt for the composting program.

    15. Stef Lev says:

      This seems like the Department of Sanitation would be happy not to restart the program, as it is easier for them not to implement the routing for compost pickup. If they really wanted to do it, they’d announce it’s starting and buildings would comply. At the very least, they should restart the compost pickup they did at the farmer’s markets not already covered by GrowNYC, in order to provide more options to Upper Westside Residents. I make drops at W97th St on Fridays or the Columbus Ave farmer’s market on Sundays. There’s lot of interest for composting on the UWS. They could fund the farmer’s market pickups from money saved by not doing residential pickup. Something doesn’t smell right here and it’s not my compost!

    16. Gillian Gilford says:

      What’s the magic number as to how many must sign up?

      Will they share it so we can work to boost the sign ups with a clear goal?

      I hope everyone who cares about this will push their reluctant supers and managing agents to do the right thing and sign up.

    17. W 65 says:

      Why can’t the city start composting in their own buildings? Start with the FDNY Fire “houses” and then other office buildings.

    18. Joanne Morse says:

      Buildings with more than 10 apartments can request service for the whole building too. We had it in our building before Covid and I loved it. It is also not coming back (yet) because not enough buildings signed up. For me it meant my kitchen garbage was tiny, and not smelly! My little compost bin could be moved to where I wanted to use it – right on the counter when I was peeling vegetables. I was amazed at how much food scraps I had – it really is a shame to put all that stuff into a landfill. In our garbage room in the basement we needed fewer garbage bins, and the food scrap bins got picked up by the city very regularly and frequently.

      Our bulding staff were enthusiastic -it’s the same amount of stuff that has to be dealt with – it’s just going out sorted into two types. What’s going to landfill is not so smelly, and the food scraps ar in rat-proof containers with good lids.

    19. Scratching my head as to why Sanitation could not simply notify all the buildings enrolled in curbside composting before the program shut down that their service would begin anew in October – with an option to opt out. I cannot believe the demand is not alive. We have the bins and procedures in place. Just need the pickup.

    20. Rick Schulman says:

      Composting*should*be*mandatory!!
      It is as, if not more, important than current recycling that is law. We knew the short-sighted thinking of the administration cutting this DSNY program would be extremely difficult to recover from, but why require buildings to re-enroll who were already enrolled before? This is contributing to the perceived “lack of interest” on the UWS. I see rats all the time coming out of Riverside Park. This is one of the great solutions.
      Tell your neighbors to lobby your management to be a part of this program. It will benefit the entire neighborhood.

    21. Regina K. says:

      Thank you WSR for this article, so important to stress the word. Can you please post on all your social media platforms as well? Link to the article which explains the whole situation very clearly.
      Yes compost should be mandatory and we should not be going through all this “show interest” to get it implemented again!