After roughly a decade of service in New York City, the last two community composting sites will not have their leases renewed. These sites are situated on land belonging to the city’s Parks Department: the Lower East Side Ecology Center is at Corlears Hook Park in Lower Manhattan, and Big Reuse is located under the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City. Both are run by non-profits.
The Parks Department cites case law from 2014 as the primary reason for the removal of the sites, but “composting advocates argue that the case doesn't apply, because it involved a massive 20-acre ‘industrial’ composting site.”
One of Big Reuse’s main clients is the Parks Department itself, which “regularly deposits dead leaves, branches and yard waste collected throughout New York’s green spaces” to be turned into mulch, which is then returned to city parks. “We thought it made perfect sense,” said Justin Green, founder and executive director of Big Reuse. “I thought we were really on this path towards a more sustainable NYC…”
These sites “represent the remnants of a once-robust citywide organics recycling program that at its height operated with a $24.5 million annual budget, included residential curbside pickup, and diverted 2% of the city’s waste from landfills.” In recent years, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s stated goals of diverting 90% of waste from landfills by 2030 and mandatory citywide composting by 2018, a lack of funding and education have caused the program to founder.
There is an ongoing push by groups including the Save Our Compost Coalition, to save the sites because, without them, there is concern the city “will stray away from its climate goals.”