NEW YORK - New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced agreement on the city’s FY2021 budget today. In the wake of the city’s Coronavirus crisis and expected budget deficit, significant cutbacks to numerous programs were made, including important environmental initiatives that play a key role in reaching the city’s climate goals.
The following is a statement by Eric A. Goldstein, Senior Attorney and New York City Environment Director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council):
“Composting of organics is an essential sanitation service in the 21st century – a reality that this budget deal does not reflect.
“Cuts to composting will likely mean more waste going to poorly operating transfer stations located in already overburdened environmental justice communities, and more of this waste being sent to distant landfills and incinerators, which are too often in communities of color.
“The Council has thrown a life preserver to community composting, and we’re appreciative for that. But this program is still bobbing in treacherous waters and this funding is no more than an emergency stop-gap measure.
“Legislation to restore and expand composting, including the CORE Act, introduced by Councilmembers Powers and Reynoso, is more important than ever. And a key priority for the Fall will be securing additional funds for community composting and passage of a mandatory organics collection program that would provide curbside collection of food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard waste to every New York City household.”
Food waste and yard waste account for fully one-third of the residential waste stream and diverting these materials from landfills and incinerators is critical to curbing global warming emissions, preserving in-city jobs at composting facilities and reducing the costs to taxpayers of exporting trash.
The FY2021 budget slashes more than $100 million from the Sanitation Department budget, which among other things will decimate organics collection efforts, including the Department’s entire curbside organics waste collection program.
Additionally, funds for GrowNYC - which runs composting collection operations at over 70 Greenmarket locations - were cut, and its programs for recycling outreach and education were stripped of funding.
In one bright spot, the FY2021 budget restores $2.86 million for community composting operations – which a diverse collation of citywide organizations, neighborhood groups, and local citizens fought to preserve and expand. These funds should enable programs run by local non-profits like the Lower East Side Ecology Center, Big Reuse, Earth Matter NY and local Botanical Gardens in all five boroughs to keep their operations afloat.
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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.