The New York-based Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) has released a report with its analysis of the potential cost to New York City taxpayers of diverting food scraps and other organic material from landfills. The report, titled “Can We Have Our Cake and Compost it Too? An Analysis of Food Waste Diversion in New York City,” contends that an expansion of the city’s organics programs “would impose substantial logistical and financial burdens.”
New York City has, according to the CBC, initiated a residential organic waste collection pilot program and recently adopted a collection mandate on large commercial producers of food waste. By 2018 the city aims to have a citywide residential program, and the commercial mandate could be expanded as greater processing capacity becomes available, says the group.
“If residential curbside organics collection was expanded citywide, the program would add new costs ranging from $177 million to $251 million annually, because at least 88,000 new truck-shifts by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) would be needed, adding traffic and contributing to local air pollution,” states the CBC. “Moreover, if residential or commercial organic waste diversion were to expand significantly, accessing processing capacity close to the city would be a challenge, at least in the short run,” it adds.
The CBC recommends in-sink food waste disposers as an alternative technology for food waste diversion that “should also be examined as part of the city’s organics diversion strategy.” Says the CBC, “This underutilized technology could divert a significant amount of food waste from landfills to some of the City’s wastewater treatment plant digesters without adding new trucks to the road.”
DSNY and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also could collaborate on other approaches that would not add significant new costs, says the CBC, adding that two possibilities are:
- expanding curbside collections only where and when additional collection routes are not required, potentially by collecting refuse and organics simultaneously with trucks with two separate compartments; or
- encouraging the use of in-sink disposers in select neighborhoods with adequate wastewater treatment plant infrastructure.
“As New York City seeks environmental benefits from wider diversion of organic waste, city officials should understand these programs have real costs,” says CBC President Carol Kellermann. “Unless residential trash collection costs are reduced, new program costs will greatly overwhelm any potential savings from landfill reduction.”
The CBC, founded in 1932, bills itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization devoted to influencing constructive change in the finances and services of the New York State and New York City governments.