Mayor Michael Bloomberg—the man who brought about the failed supersize soda ban and restrictions on trans fats in city restaurants—is pushing for a law forcing New York City residents to compost their food refuse.
Bloomberg’s proposal would encourage voluntary composting initially, and then make food composting mandatory by 2015-2016.
Another Consumer Mandate
Opponents decried yet another expansion of the nanny state and also worried about food composting expanding the city’s rat population.
“People seem to be able to recycle their paper and bottles without too much trouble, despite lots of outcry when it first started decades ago,” said Nicole Gelinas, a Searle Freedom Trust Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “I think the point of the expanded voluntary pilot is to see if they can do this, too, or if it causes too many problems with improperly disposed waste—rats, etc.”
“Garbage sits around attracting rats no matter what. I’m not sure if it will attract more rats just by being in separately sealed containers, … but I guess we will find out,” said Gelinas.
Voluntary vs. Mandatory Composting
Gelinas called the proposal “fine on a voluntary basis” but only if residents and apartment owners can reach agreement on the issue.
During his State of the City address earlier this year, Bloomberg called food waste “New York City’s final recycling frontier.” His office is negotiating with a composting plant that can handle up to 100,000 tons of food waste per year, roughly 10 percent of the food waste that’s thrown into the garbage from the city’s dining tables.
Jeff Stier, the New York City-based director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Risk Analysis Division, notes the city already has a voluntary composting program. He questions the need and desirability of a mandatory program.
Long List of Targets
Stier says Bloomberg’s proposal is just one more way for the mayor to implement a nanny state before his last months in office wrap up. Stier noted Bloomberg has put the force of city government into opposition to trans fats, salt, Styrofoam containers, soda, and other food substances and consumer products.
“He’s done all sorts of thing to try to control what we eat,” he said. “He’s trying to control the containers that hold our food. And now he’s trying to control what we don’t eat, with compost.”
Once the program moved from voluntary to mandatory, it would impose fines on people who don’t comply.
Collateral Environmental Damage
Stier notes the trucks that will be necessary to collect the food waste will put more vehicles on New York City streets, consume more oil and gas, and emit more pollutants into the city’s air.
“There’s no way food scraps can be picked up from every home throughout the city without greatly increasing the number of trucks, traffic, and tyranny,” Stier explained.
Cheryl Chumley, [email protected], is a news writer with The Washington Times.