At first the brown pins popped up slowly. One week they weren’t there at all, the next a few sat squarely sat outside a couple of buildings, until soon it seemed like practically every building in my neighborhood was participating in the city’s organics pick-up program.
After a 2013 pilot program, the city began rolling out brown bins in force in 2017. Currently, 3.5 million New Yorkers in 24 city neighborhoods have access to the curbside organics pick-up program, but many more residents are still waiting for their brown bins and it looks like they could be waiting for a while. Expansion of the program, originally scheduled to serve all New Yorkers by the end of 2018, is on hold, indefinitely.
“We believe that for the program to be successful over the long term, we must ensure New Yorkers are getting the very best service when curbside organics collection reaches their neighborhoods,” NYC Department of Sanitation press secretary Dina Montes said. “To achieve this, the city is evaluating its current service with the goal of increasing efficiencies and streamlining the program and has temporarily placed the schedule for expanding the curbside organics program on hold. We expect to have a modified expansion schedule in the coming months.”
New York’s organics program, initially created as part of the city’s plan to send zero waste to landfills by 2030, is the largest in the country. In 2017, the city collected an average of 81.4 tons of organics per day from both curbside pickup and containerized collections. However, according to a DSNY study for the same year, initially reported by Gothamist, the vast majority of organics waste (nearly 90 percent) produced by residents living in areas served by organics pick-up program still ended up in the regular trash.
It’s not clear why so little organic waste is actually making it into the brown bins, but it’s one of the things the city is evaluating, along with the frequency of curbside pickup, while an expansion of the program is on hold.
According to Montes, residents in the current participating areas will continue receiving curbside organics collection service while the DSNY continues intensive outreach in those neighborhoods to grow participation.
While participating in organics curbside collection is voluntary, an ongoing DSNY outreach campaign is trying to educate more people about what can and cannot be recycled through the organics program. Several months after a neighborhood begins to receive organics curbside collection, DSNY’s staff leave a “thanks for participating” flyer to residents and buildings who set out their organics brown bins for collection. And for those that might have forgotten to set out their bins, the staff leaves behind a flyer or card explaining the importance of organics recycling.
If you’re anxiously awaiting your brown bin, you can participate in city’s food scrap drop-off program, which has nearly 100 drop-off sites throughout the city.