Composting in NYC
Composting isn't all about soil, it's good for our environment and a sustainable future.

We can be part of the process by separating our organic matter from our garbage, just like we separate other recyclables.

By participating in the process we help reduce waste in our city, which means fewer sidewalk messes, and also drastically reducing the amount of land we need for our garbage.

Data from by Belinda C. Chiu (@ahealthyblueprint). Map by Yvonne Chow.
What Happens To Our Waste
The Story of One Apples
Journey to Landfill
A New Yorker buys an apple at a fruit stand on 23rd Street
They eat it on the way to work, & toss the core into a trash can on an NYC sidewalk
The core, along with other waste, is collected by a city garbage truck
The core travels through the city on the truck's route, & then to a transfer station to be weighed, dumped, & combined with other waste
From there, the garbage is transported to a landfill (by truck, train, or boat). NYC sends its garbage as far as Delaware & The Carolinas
Now after traveling hundreds of miles, the apple core sits in a pile of trash, releasing harmful methane gas into the atmosphere as it slowly rots
New Yorkers put over 6 million tons of food scraps into the garbage each year.*
That's a lot of apples! Imagine if that food was taken out of our
waste stream, & composted instead.
That Would Mean Less...

Harmful auto emissions from garbage trucks

Costly masses adding up in already crowded landfills

Trips back & forth to distant landfills

Dangerous methane emissions into the environment

New York is exploring collecting and diverting organics in a variety of ways – some approaches are centralized involving the collection of food scraps by Department of Sanitation trucks, or decentralized involving local organizations, non-profits, & community gardens.

*The United States Environmental Protection Agency
Composting is an important process.
For New Yorkers the topic has recently been in the spotlight:
New legislation has passed, focusing on the collection of organics from
city residents, schools, and commercial organizations.
  • This legislation went into effect on October 2, 2013, establishing new laws for NYC that create opportunities for pilot programs

  • Some of these pilots have already started, and since the most recent expansion during the summer of 2015, residents living in the designated pilot areas of the city can now separate their food scraps for recycling – similar to how we already separate other recyclables like bottles and cans from the rest of our trash

  • As of February 2016, 723 schools (40% of schools in NYC) are participating in this initiative, with a goal to continue to increase participation throughout the city

NYC's Organics Recycling Timeline
  • Jan 1, 1990

    The Lower East Side Ecology Center’s community compost program begins at a community garden on East 7th Street.

  • Jan 1, 1993

    The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) creates the NYC Compost Project, which establishes compost education programs at the City’s 4 Botanical Gardens and the Lower East Side Ecology Center in Manhattan.

  • Jan 1, 1994

    The Lower East Side Ecology Center began offering the residential compost collection program at the Union Square Greenmarket.

  • Mar 1, 2011

    GrowNYC begins the residential compost collection pilot program at seven greenmarkets.

  • Feb 27, 2012

    A cafeteria composting pilot program in eight public schools on Manhattan’s Upper West Side launches. The pilot is designed to test the viability of separating and composting food waste. Click for details D3 Green Schools NY.

  • Jan 6, 2013

    GrowNYC Greenmarket collection program hits 1,000,000 pounds of compost collected.

  • Apr 25, 2013

    Mayor Bloomberg announces more than 100 restaurants to participate in the “Food Waste Challenge.” A city program designed to reduce the amount of commercial waste sent to landfills.

  • Sep 1, 2012

    D3 Green school pilot group expands to 89 public schools through the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Education.

  • Oct 2, 2013

    New legislation passes for compost, which:

    1. Establishes a pilot for the curbside collection of household food scraps in no fewer then 100,000 homes
    2. Establishes a pilot in no fewer then 400 public school
    3. Requires a study to be completed on improving community composting


  • Nov 7, 2013

    GrowNYC Greenmarket collection program hits 2,000,000 pounds of compost collected.

  • Dec 19, 2013

    Waste Management and Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant launch a one-year long pilot program to accept slurried residential food scraps and commingle them with wastewater for digestion, and analyze data from the new recipe.

  • Dec 30, 2013

    Legislation Passes Regulating Commercial Organic Waste. This legislation requires restaurants, food service establishments of a certain size, and commercial operations that generate significant food waste, to source separate their organic waste by July 1, 2015.

  • Dec 1, 2014

    Expansion of the Organics Collection Program continued through 2014, reaching 40% of NYC schools throughout the 5 boroughs.

  • Jan 1, 2015

    Expand school collection to no less then 400 schools in all 5 boroughs.
    Conduct a study on improving community composting, including:

    1. Recommendations for optimizing community composting resources
    2. An assessment of markets for finished compost within the city, considering use by city agencies and retail sales
    3. Strategies to expand community composting locations in the 5 boroughs
  • Apr 22, 2015

    Mayor de Blasio releases One New York (OneNYC): The Plan for a Strong and Just City, and outlines NYC’s goal to send Zero Waste to landfills and reduce waste disposal by 90% relative to 2005 levels, by 2030. The press release outlines the plan, and the full list of initiatives outlines the Zero Waste goals:

    • Expand the Organics Collection Program to serve all New Yorkers by 2018
    • Expand curbside recycling by offering single-stream recycling by 2020
    • Additional goals include recycling and waste reduction in NYCHA housing, Zero Waste schools, reuse and recycling of textiles and electronic waste, and developing a blueprint for a “Save As You Throw” program for NYC’s future
  • Jun 1, 2015

    Yard waste collection will happen March 1st to July 31st and Sept 1st to Nov 30th each year.

  • Jul 10, 2015

    GrowNYC Greenmarket collection program hits 3,000,000 pounds of compost collected.

  • Aug 19, 2015

    Public Comment Period opens for the regulation proposals for the source separation and disposal of organic waste by commercial businesses in NYC.

    Under this law, the following enterprises will be required to sort organic waste onsite and either: contract with a BIC-approved hauler for food scrap removal and transport to a processing facility; internally manage transport of the organic material to a processing facility; or begin utilizing an onsite food scrap processing technology:

    • Food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms
    • Food service vendors in arenas and stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 people
    • Food manufacturers with a floor area of at least 25,000 sq. ft.
    • Food wholesalers with a floor area of at least 20,000 sq. ft.
  • Jan 13, 2016

    To date, compost collection through DSNY was offered to 750,000 households in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, Maps of the participating neighborhoods can be found on the DSNY website

  • Feb 1, 2016

    The Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge invites arenas, food wholesalers and manufacturers, all food service establishments in hotels, and other businesses, to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill or incineration by at least 50% by June 2016. Participating businesses will be recognized by the city, and there are no penalties for failing to reach waste reduction goals set during the Challenge

  • May 1, 2016

    Spring 2016:

    The Waste Management organic waste digestion pilot is set to resume at the Newtown Creek wastewater treatment plant