NYC community compost sites say they must shut down this weekend due to Mayor Adams’ cuts

Dozens of community composting sites across New York City are at risk of shutting down this weekend due to Mayor Eric Adams’ budget cuts, organizers said on Tuesday.

GrowNYC, which runs composting programs around the five boroughs, has faced threats to its operations since late last year, when Adams required the sanitation department to reduce its spending by 5%, including $3 million in cuts to the composting locations.

The group managed to continue to run its sites — primarily located at greenmarkets — thanks to an anonymous donor who gave it a temporary lifeline in December. But now, as the mayor and City Council negotiate a new budget that’s due at the end of June, GrowNYC said it plans to shutter 44 of its sites by the end of Sunday.

The organization could restore their sites if funding is approved in the budget. But sanitation officials say community composting is becoming obsolete as the city rolls out curbside compost pickup to every residential building across the five boroughs. The service is currently available in Brooklyn and Queens and is expected to expand to the Bronx and Staten Island later this year.

“New York City is committed to making composting easy and to expanding this service to everyone,” sanitation department spokesperson Joshua Goodman said. He added that community composting programs like GrowNYC’s help less than 40% of New Yorkers properly dispose of their organic waste.

But Eric Goldstein, an attorney with the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council who is also a member of the local Save Our Compost coalition, said community composting organizations are integral to teaching residents about how composting works.

“You can’t simply mandate that New Yorkers change their behavior,” he said. “You’ve got to show us why it’s important to do so and how to participate in a composting program, and that’s exactly what these community composters do.”

City data from the 2023 Mayor’s Management Report suggests that composting is up year over year, with 46 million more pounds of waste collected compared to the previous fiscal year. GrowNYC and similar organizations turn the waste they collect into finished compost, which can be used as a replacement for fertilizer.

A group of 18 city councilmembers wrote a letter to Adams — shared with Gothamist on Tuesday — in which they argued that composting cuts should be off the table during budget negotiations. The group wrote that the sanitation department’s curbside composting program isn’t as effective as the community sites set up by organizations like GrowNYC.

“These are passionate workers who want to continue serving their communities and provide the education programs necessary for the city to reduce waste and increase social and climate resilience,” the letter states.

Councilmember Shaun Abreu of Manhattan, who chairs the Council’s sanitation committee and signed the letter, said curbside composting won’t work if “it’s not paired with deep investments in community composting.”

GrowNYC spokesperson Nick Rolf said the organization will have to lay off more than 60 employees as its compost operation winds down.

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