It’s a ritual in our house — walking or biking, sometimes driving our food scraps over to the Disbrow DPW disposal site. It’s a bit unpleasant to open the containers filled with all those rotting leftovers and insects, but it does offer actual eco virtue by providing the raw material to turn at least half our trash into garden mulch. There are even occasional surprises, like the sleeping, sated raccoon we recently discovered in a green bin, who’d dined out on scraps.
It turns out, though, there are good financial reasons for Rye City taxpayers to take our organic garbage over to Disbrow or to the other scrap disposal site under I-95 in the Highland Hall parking lot. The City saves money on every ton of compostables it keeps out of the general garbage.
We don’t think about our garbage once we put it out on the curb, but the city’s Public Works Department has to pay to get rid of it. Most garbage goes to a County facility, which we pay $32.91 per ton to take, which in turn feeds a waste-to-energy facility the County reports provides enough power for 60,000 homes.
But the County offers a deal for compost. Its Residential Food Scrap Transportation and Disposal Program, in which 25 Westchester communities including Rye, participate, lets us pay just $16.55 if our DPW trucks take leftover pizza crusts, apple cores, and such over to CPW CRP in Cortland Manor. That’s half-price.
Such savings could really mount up if Rye households composted on a large scale; we produce some 6,300 tons of some type of garbage annually.
Some readers will undoubtedly recall that we’ve tried to add curbside pickup of compost to our City services; a pilot program begun in 2019, however, was dropped after the City Council concluded that the pickup costs outstripped the financial benefit of a small-scale program. Mayor Josh Cohn notes that those participating in the program were “inconsistent” in their use of it “indicating poor prospects for expansion for all residents.”
But in the last year of the pilot program, 68 tons of food scraps were collected; under the current drop-off-only program, 50 tons are collected, according to Mayor Cohn. Not everyone wants to schlep little biodegradable green bags of food scraps just to feel virtuous. (Though you could save money on big black garbage bags.)
Still, we could cut costs and produce actual environmental benefit if all or most households separated food waste. That contrasts with the separation of paper and plastics, for which the markets have collapsed and for which governments across the country now must pay significant fees just to get rid of.
Mayor Cohn notes that he would favor renewed compostables collection, if it were combined with yard waste pick up — and both could be sent to the County together.
As the City considers both economics and the environment, there are good reasons to rethink how we put out and pick up our trash.