Queens residents may have noticed brown compost bins popping up around their neighborhoods. Starting on Oct. 3, curbside composting will be available to all Queens residents. When organic material like food scraps, leaves and animal products decompose properly, it becomes compost that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Composting organic material also significantly reduces methane emissions — a much-needed win for the planet.

Make sure you throw your food scraps, yard waste and food-soiled paper in your compost bin beginning Oct. 3. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

Epicenter-NYC reporter Andrea Pineda-Salgado spoke with the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) press secretary Vincent Gragnani about the new program. Here’s what you need to know.  

Where do I begin?

The first thing you have to do is find the designated bin to put all of your compost. If you live in a single-family home or in a building with fewer than 10 units you can order a free brown bin from the DSNY — the last day to do so is Saturday, Oct. 1. They will only deliver one bin to each building, regardless of how many tenants request. You can also use your own bin, but it must be labeled with a composting decal that you can order from the DSNY

All buildings with 10 or more units automatically receive a 21-gallon “starter bin” to participate in the program. The building staff will be responsible for making the bin available to tenants, similar to how standard trash and recycling operates.

DSNY will send everyone a free brown bin to begin composting. Order yours before Oct. 1. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

What goes in the compost bin?

Here’s a DSNY list of acceptable waste:

  • All leaf and yard waste of any kind, including leaves, flowers, twigs and grass clippings.
  • All food waste and food-soiled paper of any kind —  fruit and vegetable, scraps and bones and shells, moldy cheese, leftover Thai, napkins, uncoated paper plates etc.  
  • Not sure about a certain product? Find out if it goes in the bin here.

According to the DSNY, these are items that cannot go in the compost bin: 

  • Trash including diapers and hygienic products, animal waste, wrappers, packaging and foam products
  • Recyclables like metal, glass, rigid plastic, beverage cartons, clean recyclable paper and cardboard.

When will your compost be collected?

Compost will be collected every week on the same day as your recycling day — find out when your collection day is here

You can put your brown bin wherever you put the rest of your trash. Compost will be collected on recycling day. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

Recommendations for organizing your compost at home

Organizing compost before collection day is different for everyone. Some people like to keep their food scraps inside a container in their freezer while others opt to throw away food in the designated bin throughout the week. If you choose to keep your food scraps in the freezer, it’s recommended to use a container or reusable bag to store the food and not a plastic bag. 

Can I put a liner in the bin?

Yes.  Gragnani says “wherever the compost goes there are machines that separate out the plastic liners.” However, unlike the brown bins, plastic liners are not provided by the DSNY. 

Ummm ….rats? 

According to Gragnani, the composting program is actually designed to mitigate rat issues. Food scraps will be placed inside a latched bin and not a plastic bag, giving rats fewer opportunities to feed. It’s easier for a rat to chew through a plastic bag rather than get into a latched bin. The bin will also keep out other pests like maggots and flies.

All brown bins come with a latch to prevent rodents and pests from going inside. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

Is this a mandatory or optional program?

The program is optional, but strongly recommended

Where can I find more information?

Find more information on the DSNY website. DSNY also conducts educational training and presentations to building tenants and staff. You can request one here

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