Council Extends Vibrant Food Scrap Pilot, But Seeks More Data
By Tom McDermott
At the July 17 City Council meeting, Mayor Josh Cohn, Councilmembers, and the residents who came to the podium all seemed to agree that the Food Scrap Recycle (FSR) pilot program begun earlier this year has been hugely popular with participants. The program’s curbside pickup service is limited to 156 users who pay one dollar per week. And, there is a waiting list to get into the program.
An additional 250 households participate in the drop-off service at DPW.
Beyond that, there were a number of issues on which Councilmembers found it harder to agree. Sara Goddard, who has spearheaded the scrap composting initiative along with Rye’s Sustainability Committee, explained that the pilot is set to expire September 4. At that point, there would be a gap in service before the Council decided next steps for scrap recycling. She first suggested that the Council extend the test for six months or make it permanent. “The County survey will be available in September; it’s an opportunity to consider it without having an interruption in service.”
In her pilot update and extension pitch, Goddard told the Council that Rye already had two years of data, 15 other Westchester towns had programs, 400 households were up and running. She had 110 letters of support from residents. “The County is urging us to make it a permanent program, DPW feedback is that it’s ready for a permanent program. Why not talk about that now?” she said.
In their update, Melissa Grieco and Gretchen Crowley of the Sustainability Committee echoed Goddard’s view, both urging the Council to consider making FSR permanent.
Councilmember Ben Stacks appreciated the information but wondered if making changes now, before the end of the pilot, “shortchanged the Council’s own process.” Councilmember Julie Souza said that she understood the concern about a break in service but wanted more time, until October.
After Goddard explained that the Council would not be looking at significantly different data with an extra month, Councilmember Richard Mecca offered another solution. “Extend the pilot six months. Continue what’s been working. If it progresses, it will be a no-brainer.”
After further encouragement from the audience to keep the program rolling, Mayor Cohn weighed in. “I’m data-driven and want to complete the test period. The County report is important. There is also an amazing difference in food scrap treatment in different parts of the country. In Boulder, for example, green waste and scrap are combined. There may be huge efficiencies. He noted that FSR curbside pickup requires two workers and a truck for a full day.”
Councilmember Souza interjected that, according to DPW data, 25 % of the 156 composting bins are not put out regularly. That led to a discussion about the need to review of the possibility of reducing regular garbage pickup from two days to one a week.
In the end, those who wanted more time to review the data had a consensus, the idea of a permanent FSR program was tabled for now along with a six-month extension. The Council voted to extend the pilot to the end of October, to front the cost of purchasing 200 new scrap recycle kits, and cover any gap in fees for the extra month.