New York, NY—It was just a year ago yesterday when the Department of Sanitation suspended its curbside composting pickup and food scrap drop-off sites were temporarily closed due to social distancing mandates. But to commemorate this year’s Earth Day, local elected officials and community groups announced a new food scrap drop-off site at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza earlier today.

Councilman Keith Powers (D-4), joined by Assembly Member Harvey Epstein (D-74) first thanked the community groups—The Turtle Bay Association, Friends of Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza—for the work they do every day to upkeep the neighborhood, as well as the Lower East Side Ecology Center, which has been providing New York City residents with free food waste drop-off programs since 1990.

He then cited the budget cuts to the composting program last year but also noted that he is endeavoring this year to bring the full composting program back. In fact, he wants to bring more composting sites to communities all throughout the city. That’s why he, along with Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D- 34), introduced the “Community Organics and Recycling Empowerment Act (CORE), which would allow for the recycling of organic and inorganic recyclables not collected at the curb at mandated, proper disposal sites.

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“So, today, we’re opening this site up as one way that folks who live in this neighborhood will start to know that if they have food scraps, they can walk right down the block and drop them off,” said Powers.

In an interview after the event, we asked the Councilman why was it important for New Yorkers to be composting, which he said provides the city with an economic benefit.

“It’s part of our duty as New Yorkers to make sure that we have a sustainable city, that we are also lowering the costs of doing business here in the city, composting is a cheaper option for the city than just throwing it in the garbage,” said Powers.

“We’re thinking short-term in terms of providing a close opportunity for people to drop it off, but long-term thinking here is save money, save our planet.”

Tomorrow is Earth Day, but not an ordinary one. President Joe Biden is meeting, virtually, with 40 world leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping, to commit to meeting the greenhouse gas emissions limits as promulgated in The Paris Agreement.

We additionally asked the Councilman if New Yorkers can feel more hopeful this Earth Day that the country’s climate policies are changing.

“Without question, I think we have a president who believes in climate change and will keep us in international treaties and regulatory policies in place that support our environment, support our wildlife, support our planet, so I think we should have a lot of hope that right now we have a president, an administration that fully believes in the urgency of tackling climate change,” Powers said.

We also interviewed Lia Lucerio of the LES Ecology Center, who explained that food composting diverts a significant amount of garbage from the waste stream.

“Food scraps, food soiled paper and yard waste comprise about 30 percent of New Yorker’s trash. By composting that material that is compostable then we can divert food scraps from the landfill and make it into something that can green your community,” said Lucerio.

And Robin Hauptman, who lives nearby, said that composting is simple to do and more people should.

“Of course, is everyone going to, no, but a lot of people do, even here with our few containers that we have,” said Hauptman.

She added, “It’s very important for the future of our planet, like a lot of things, and it’s a little part that people can do, and I feel I can be responsible.”

In addition, Dolores Marsh, president of The Turtle Bay Association, welcomed the addition to the neighborhood. 

“Earth Day should encourage everyone to reflect on what we are doing to make our planet a more sustainable and livable place,” said Marsh. 

“As President of The Turtle Bay Association, I am proud to help promote this event with Council Member Keith Powers, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and Friends of Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza to kick off the opening of a food scrap drop-off site in the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza for the East Midtown Turtle Bay community.” 

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