New York City Composts!

The Bloomberg Administration announced plans on Sunday for an ambitious composting program for household and commercial food waste that would cover all of New York City by 2016. The move continues Mayor Bloomberg’s recent emphasis on food waste and will help reach the PlaNYC goal of diverting 75 percent of waste from landfills by 2030.

The plans are anything but set, but here are a few thoughts on the news:

This is wonderful. New York has been flirting with composting food scraps for several years (including an ongoing pilot program), but it’s heartening to see that they are ready to announce a citywide effort to keep food out of landfills.

It’s a gamechanger. This plan will set an example for all major international cities. If a city as massive and complex as New York can implement mandatory composting, it can happen just about anywhere. And while there have been several U.S. cities requiring composting, they’ve all been in the western U.S. It’s encouraging to see an Eastern city lead by example.

Gotham Green City! With its biking program, the abundance of walking and now composting, New York is on its way to becoming one of the greener major cities in the US. (And if the soda tax was upheld, it would have been even more so!)

Far from a done deal. There will be pushback from residents and restaurants, as separating food scraps requires a bit more labor. Getting this plan right–figuring out whether to make it voluntary or mandatory and the timing on food scrap pickup–will take time. Meanwhile, the composting program won’t cover the entire city until 2016.

Stay tuned. Even if there’s acceptance from Bloomberg leaves office at the end of the year and the next mayor could cancel or alter the program. Yet, two likely Bloomberg successors, Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio said they were in favor of the program.

In the end, I hope that the policy is judged on its merits, not politics (and that it’s not lumped together with the tax on large sugary drinks). And when the program does commence, I hope New Yorkers have the foresight and patience to get through the inevitable bumps to reach that zero-food-to-landfill goal. I’m cautiously optimistic that they will be, given the rising tide of food waste awareness.

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