One borough’s trash is another’s goal: Manhattan leaders want composting program like one in Queens

Curbside composting arrived in Queens last month. Now, Manhattan elected officials want in on the program.

In a letter to NYC Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch last week, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and nine council members requested curbside composting be extended to their borough.

The elected officials also endorsed a bill introduced in April that would create a citywide curbside organics program for residential buildings.

Organic waste makes up a third of New York City’s daily trash, amounting to 8 million pounds per day of recyclable material that is sent to landfills where it produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, Tisch has said. Composting that material into nutrient-rich soil is key to reaching the city’s climate goals.

But in Manhattan, only Community Boards 6 and 7 – consisting of the East Side of Manhattan from 14th Street to 59th Street and the Upper West Side — are offered curbside composting. Residents have to sign up, leading to low utilization, according to Levine’s letter.

“An automatic and guaranteed system for all Manhattanites would lead to a significant increase in usage of composting, transitioning us to a greener and more sustainable city,” the letter reads.

So far, only Queens has seen such an initiative, selected in part because eastern Queens produces a substantial amount of the city’s yard waste. The sanitation department celebrated the Queens pilot program just a few weeks in, announcing it had diverted 1 million pounds of food scraps and yard waste from landfills.

Sanitation department spokesperson Vincent Gragnani said in an email the department hopes to eventually expand the program to all parts of the city, but didn’t provide a specific timeline.

“As this is the most diverse county in the nation, we are looking closely at how this is working from both a participation and operation standpoint,” Gragnani said. “We hope to be able to expand this program to include other – and eventually, all – parts of the city.”

Gragnani said that in the meantime, Manhattan residents who don’t receive curbrside composting are encouraged to use one of the more than 210 food scrap drop-off sites or Smart Bins.