Greenpointers say new compost program is off to a stinky start

Wake up and smell the rotting coffee grounds!

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The city’s composting program stinks, say Greenpoint residents who have been plagued by gross smells and occasional maggots in the month since the scrappy pickup service arrived in the neighborhood.

Locals say food-recycling rookies are leaving rotting meat and dairy products to putrefy in their bins all week, creating an olfactory assault on entire neighborhood blocks.

“My neighbor dumped a bunch of moldy food in there on a hot day and there were a bunch of green flies within a day,” said Greenpoint resident Eric Perlmutter. “It only takes one person in a building to do it wrong for the whole thing to collapse.”

Denizens’ discontent started festering soon after the city began its weekly food-scrap pickups in the ’hood on June 15. Phantom stenches quickly began appearing on both the main avenues and the surrounding residential streets, say locals.

“The city would have to take it away every day for the smell to go away,” said Greenpointer Madia Bassino.

Sanitation officials said they are not surprised about the complaints of noxious odors and creepy crawlies in the nabe, as many locals still don’t know which scraps they can and can’t dispose of or how to throw them away, and the weather has been hot enough to bake the brown bins’ contents.

“Keep in mind that the organics collection program is a pilot and managing organic waste as a recyclable involves a learning curve in any new area where it is introduced,” said city sanitation department spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins.

Most compost programs do not allow meat and dairy, since they reek and take longer to break down, but New York’s initiative accepts super-stinky items like eggs, milk, and fish. It also takes many non-food scraps such as coffee filters, paper towels, and grass trimmings, but draws the line at dead pets, dirty bandages, and cigarette butts.

Greenpoint residents say they are still in favor of the scheme despite its foul start, as it is a boon for the economy and the environment.

“It could save the city hundreds of millions of dollars and for environmental and a million other reasons, we have to do this,” said Perlmutter. “Anything new in New York City is always going to be a bit of a science experiment.”

Compost experts recommend freezing compost on a daily basis and then putting it in the outdoor bin right before pickup to prevent it from cooking in the summer heat. They also advise making sure the bin’s latch is firmly closed.

The city has been running the nascent composting program in Windsor Terrace since 2013, and Greenwood Heights, Sunset Park, Park Slope, Gowanus, and Bay Ridge since 2014. Residents in those locales say Greenpointers just need to be patient while their neighbors get the hang of it.

“I do not think it is difficult stuff, and the ability to turn things away from the city’s waste stream is so valuable,” said Park Sloper Eric McClure.

The program is voluntary for now, but the city says it will probably eventually make it mandatory, as it did with glass and plastic recycling.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Ah Rats! It looked so good on paper! We could drive around in a truck picking up table scraps and turn it into wonderful compost.

But,but, when you do that, the fermenting compost releases CO2 and it's going to make the Polar Bears die, and the icecaps melt.

Utopia is just so far away!
July 15, 2015, 8:19 am
what stink? from Greenpoint says:
I don't mind bringing my compost to the drop off at the markets. For those with less time or who may be less mobile ...

Does this mean more trucks? Are we certain these materials do not benefit NYC's 'waste stream'?
July 15, 2015, 10:33 am
Tyler from pps says:
It's doesn't mean more trucks. It also doesn't mean more stink. This story (surprisingly?) actually painted a pretty realistic picture of the actual situation -- idiots like Rufus Leaking notwithstanding. There's a learning curve.

Also, I find it hard to believe that locked compost containers are magically stinkier than garbage bags filled with the same rotting food.
July 15, 2015, 11:55 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
why restaurants don't have to recycle food compost?
July 15, 2015, 6:36 pm
TOM from Brooklyn says:
Nothing like living day-to-day with real stinky Quality of Life issues in Greenpoint but being comforted with the assurance of the money to be saved by the City from a Park Slope expert.
July 15, 2015, 7:46 pm
John from Bay Ridge says:
We have been doing this in Bay Ridge for about a year without any serious problems. Just close the cover tightly and you won't have any odor or insect problems. It's a good program.
July 15, 2015, 9:36 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
Many green bottle flies now and yes it stinks.
So they want us to keep our rotting garbage in our apartments instead, and put in our freezer no less.
They say these things with as straight face!
The "learning curve" is for Kathy Dawkins and Eric McClure, who don't seem to understand what compost is, and it is firstly aerated not rotted in a hot plastic container.
I have already opted out. And if I do dump garbage in the bin it will be the most putrid I can muster, just for the hipster neighbors that brought this "garbage" about.
July 16, 2015, 3:39 pm
Matt from Greenpoint says:
They just created one more reason why no one should ever live on the first floor.
I suspect the geniuses who came up with this idea live a little higher up.
July 16, 2015, 3:41 pm
danny boy from nyc says:
Another scheme thought up by another member of deBlasio's 'Park Slope' brain trust. So now taxpayers are being told that we have a problem with the 'learning curve'. Really? I suggest we drop off our stinking compost in from of her Carroll Street brownstone.
Sept. 29, 2015, 1:33 pm

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