We are one of the lucky few recipients in Rye of curbside pickup of food scraps. Unfortunately, the “test” program was abandoned by the City Council at their regular meeting, following a disconcerting discussion by its members. Consider that one Councilmember stated participation rate was 71%, while another said the rate was 42%. How can a reasonable judgment be made when our leaders can’t even agree on a critical metric? One Councilwoman remarked, “Food scraps recycling pickup is bad for the environment”, without data to support her assertion. Yet, every Councilmember agreed food scrap recycling should be encouraged.
The fact that the City of Rye’s hauling costs are three times lower when food scraps are trucked separately from solid waste was neither acknowledged nor cited as a reason to do everything possible to expand Food Scraps Recycling (FSR) in Rye.
Since all Councilmembers agreed FSR in Rye is important, we should fix and expand the curbside pickup program, not abandon it. One Councilman commented that Rye residents keep appearing at Council meetings and writing letters in support of this program, and no one speaks or writes in opposition. To this point, the mayor countered with a “people-are-saying”statement in opposition, thus suggesting that if some anonymous, unquantified residents just get the mayor’s ear outside of Council meetings, they can negate all letters and public statements to the contrary. With that logic, why would any resident ever participate in public debate?
No metrics for success were mentioned – just the vagary that participation isn’t sufficient. What participation percentage of this tiny test (approximately150 households, i.e., fewer than 1% of residents) would be deemed successful? What was the rate of participation of bottles/paper recycling – also a separate trip by DPW (twice weekly) – during the first year of recycling pickup? Further, what are the net savings when Westchester County’s food waste hauling subsidy is applied?
Since Rye’s food scraps comprise 22% of household waste, expanding FSP pickup could help reduce solid waste by that amount. Then it might be possible to switch the second day of trash pickup to food waste pickup. Necessity would incentivize participation. We should make reducing solid waste a priority to help stem climate change, which is not approaching, but here. There’s also an additional benefit when the County generates essential compost from separated food scraps.
Rather than end the curbside pickup program, why not take advantage of such a small test by learning from the results and adjusting accordingly? For example, why not shift to larger, lockable pest-proof bins, so food scraps can be placed curbside the night before pickup – like all other rubbish/recycling we put out for collection. (In the test, participants paid for their bins.) Currently, food scrap bins must be placed curbside before 6 a.m. We believe this single change (as Scarsdale has done) would result in a successful rollout. (One reason bins are not full sometimes is the current bins are too small for some families with excess food scraps, so they have to drive to Disbrow between pickups to dump. No second bin is permitted.)
Participants have demonstrated they are willing to pay to have their food scraps collected. The lengthy waitlist of households (200+) hoping for a coveted FSR pickup spot is further evidence of community support. No other DPW service requires a subscription. FSR is the only DPW service that does not offer curbside pickup to ALL residents, including people with young children, working people, and the elderly and/or handicapped, for whom the current program is either not available (apartment/condo dwellers) or too burdensome.
It does not appear the Council has fully evaluated all “costs,” which impact curbside pickup of food scraps, as not all costs can be measured in dollars. There’s a huge and growing cost to current and future residents of Rye if we miss the opportunity to do everything we possibly can now to reduce the impact we all have on climate change.
— Judi and Jeff Linton