New York City has suspended several services in the wake of covid-19, including electronics recycling and organic waste collection. The programs were part of a $1.3 billion round of budget cuts that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced this week.
Although some New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) services continued despite the pandemic, sites that accepted electronics for recycling and food scraps were closed until further notice. The department also canceled all compost give-back events.
The city’s organics collection and processing program had an estimated FY21 budget of $21 million and electronics recycling collection was valued at $3.4 million, according to Waste Dive.
“Sadly, in light of the covid-19 pandemic and resulting revenue losses to the city, we must take significant action to preserve our ability to provide basic operations and continue to fund life-saving measures,” a spokesperson for the mayor said in a released statement, Politico’s Joe Anuta reported.
Environmental advocates criticized de Blasio’s move to cut the organics collection program, saying that it was important for reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, Anuta wrote. In 2014, de Blasio pledged to lower GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 using a 2005 baseline.
“Everyone understands the short-term fiscal challenges the city is facing, but cutting this program — which is a centerpiece of the administration’s zero waste and [climate change] initiatives — is the wrong way to address the problem,” Eric Goldstein, New York City environment director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Politico.
A 2015 NYC organics collection report outlined steps for reaching the city’s goal of achieving zero waste to landfills by 2030. To get there, DSNY developed programs to reduce waste as well as to separate and recover individual components of the waste stream.
“This includes organic material, paper, cardboard, metal, glass, and plastics currently collected for recycling; textiles suitable for donation and reuse; and electronic waste and other special wastes that require proper handling,” the report said. “Of these, organic waste offers the biggest new opportunity not yet tapped.”
At last count, according to a Politico article from January, DSNY collected 13,000 tons of organic waste out of the more than 1 million tons that were generated in 2017.