Cobble Hill

Cobble Hill residents fume over uncollected compost rotting in the heat

August 2, 2018 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sanitation workers did not pick up compost in Cobble Hill on Tuesday, leaving residents fuming as the organic waste rotted in the summer heat and attracted insects. AP Photo/Richard Drew

Sanitation Dept. fails to alert residents of pickup changes

Cobble Hill residents are talking trash.

On a sultry day earlier this week, Cobble Hill residents were heated to find their compost sitting on the curb, uncollected after sanitation workers left.

The garbage men removed trash bags, but left the brown compost bins filled with dinner scraps and other organic waste. By 3 p.m., a stench began to emit from the containers as residents — unaware of any changes to their pickup schedule — left their bins out hoping the workers would return to remove the compost.

In addition to the pungent smell, insects began to accumulate inside the bins, according to one peeved resident on Warren Street, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

“New York’s Strongest,” as they are known, will apparently have a little less heavy lifting to do, according to one sanitation worker, who said the department decided to change its routine by picking up compost only on Fridays, rather than twice a week on Tuesdays also.

The Department of Sanitation’s app “DSNY Info” still lists Tuesdays as an organic recycling pickup day and has Tuesday, Aug. 7 as the next collection day.

“I was very surprised, if not shocked, to find out from one of the sanitation workers that the sanitation department was no longer picking up compost twice a week on garbage days,” the resident said. “I asked if he knew why, and he informed me that the department was losing money.”

“I think the biggest problem is why was no one informed that this change had taken place?” she added. “It’s now Thursday, and I’ve gotten no notification. Meanwhile, on hot humid days, everybody’s compost on my street is sitting out there.”

On the DSNY Info app, it still lists Tuesday as an “Organics” collection day and lists next Tuesday, Aug. 7, as a pickup day.

The garbage trucks dispatched on Tuesday were also not equipped to handle compost. Those that are have two separate sections in the back, while the ones earlier this week had only one general area for household trash.

The sanitation worker, who did not provide his name, said the department initially started the compost program for economical reasons rather than ecological ones.

“He said the idea behind the program to begin with was not as much to be environmentally friendly, but to make money,” the resident said. “There were not enough people composting as they originally planned for, so the department was losing money.”

Even when sanitation workers do pick up compost, however, residents have complained about sanitation workers aimlessly throwing their compost into the garbage section. Earlier this year, residents in the neighborhood confronted a sanitation worker, who apologized and scooped their compost out of the garbage and into the natural waste side.

“When they launched the program, we got so many mailings informing us of what was happening,” the resident said. “But it’s ridiculous that the Sanitation Department can’t let us know when they’re stopping something so the citizens can be informed and take steps not to have rotting compost sitting out in 90-degree humid weather.”

DSNY published a press release announcing the change on its website on July 23, but failed to alert each household. The service change started on Monday and will affect residents in Community Board 6, which includes Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus and Park Slope.

“From the start of the program, we have tested different service frequencies, along with different types of trucks, etc. to determine what provides the most efficient and effective service for all,” Dina Montes, press secretary of the Department of Sanitation, told the Brooklyn Eagle. 

“Additionally, our research showed that most residents were participating in the organics collection program once per week, generally on their recycling collection day. … Regarding mailers not received by residents and DSNY app issues: The Department is looking into the matter.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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