But if recycling enforcement is any indication, fines are likely to be small. Lili Baum Polans, an associate professor at Hunter College who studies waste management, said the lack of enforcement was a factor in the city’s poor compliance with the law. The city’s overall curbside recycling diversion rate—the portion of the city’s total waste stream that is diverted from landfills and recycled—is approximately 17 percent.
The composting mandate covers all New Yorkers, in buildings large or small, with the exception of the roughly 400,000 New Yorkers who live in public housing because the public housing authority is “characterized as a federal agency” and not subject to such a city mandate, said Shahana Hanif, who are, with Keith Powers, the other two main sponsors of the legislative package.
To further the methane reduction goal, some of the organic waste to be collected will be composted, a process that produces “hardly any methane,” says Eric A. Goldstein, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But until the city establishes better composting infrastructure, much of that organic matter will be put into anaerobic digesters, which Mr. Goldstein describes it as superior to using landfills, but less than ideal. In those digesters, “methane is captured to produce energy, replacing fossil fuels,” he said.
About half of New York City’s residential waste is organic and “represents the largest portion of New York City’s residential solid waste that could be diverted from landfills,” according to a 2021 New York City Independent Budget Office report. a more conservative 37 percent of the city’s waste stream.)
The report states that the cost per ton of organic waste collection is significantly higher than for recycling and regular trash, a situation that can only be remedied by expanding the program to the entire city.