By Daniel Katzive
Upper West Siders may notice some new street furniture as they walk around this week. The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has rolled out Smart Compost Bins to our neighborhood. The new bins are unlocked using an app and can be fed with food scraps, food soiled paper, and plant waste.
The DSNY launched the Smart Compost Bin program earlier this year and it has been rolling the bins out gradually in different neighborhoods across the city. West Side Rag wrote about the program in April, but at that time the bins had only reached Morningside Heights. The latest rollout has brought 20 bins to the Upper West Side, between West 59th Street and West 92nd Street. A DSNY spokesman told WSR that additional bins north of West 92nd Street could be added later this week.
The bins are locked in order to, hopefully, limit the amount of non-compostable material that gets introduced. To access the bins, neighborhood residents can download the DSNY’s NYC Smart Compost App. The app provides a map of available Smart Bins and can unlock a nearby bin using a BlueTooth connection from the phone. DSNY recommends bagging the compost that is deposited to reduce mess. Non-compostable plastic bags are acceptable.
The Smart Composting Bins can accommodate a wide range of organic material, including meat, bones, dairy, and prepared foods, as well as soiled paper and pizza boxes, but NOT pet waste. In contrast, most drop-off sites do not accept meat, bones, or dairy.
According to recent articles in the New York Times and New York Magazine’s Curbed, compost collected in Manhattan is currently brought to the Department of Environmental Protection’s Newtown Creek water treatment plant where it is fed to giant digesters. The compost breaks down into a solid material that can be made into a fertilizer product and methane gas, which is now being fed into the natural gas utility grid.
Residents who live in buildings participating in the DSNY’s voluntary curbside composting program can continue to dispose of organic material in the brown bins seen around the neighborhood. DSNY also accepts compost at various weekly Green Markets. Lastly, Hudson River Park, which runs along the river south of 59th Street, also has a composting program, with bins available the length of the park.
The smart bins are a precursor to the DSNY’s implementation of the mandatory curbside composting program, which has already started in Queens and will reach Manhattan in fall 2024.
“We know New Yorkers want to do the right thing,” wrote DSNY spokesman Vincent Gragnani in an email to West Side Rag. “We just have to make it easy for them.”
With additional reporting by Scott Etkin.