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Brooklyn’s first ‘Smart Compost’ bins appear on Bed-Stuy streets

smart compost bin in bed-stuy
Brooklyn’s first ‘Smart Compost’ bins have appeared in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the city plans to install 250 more of the bins around the city in the coming weeks.
Anna Bradley-Smith

Last week, pedestrians on Patchen Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant may have noticed a welcome addition to some street corners: bright orange “Smart Compost” bins for composting while out and about. 

According to the map on the NYC Compost mobile app, Bed-Stuy is the first Brooklyn neighborhood to get the public composting bins, which were first rolled out in lower Manhattan and Astoria in 2021. About 25 containers have been installed in the neighborhood along many of the larger thoroughfares. Along Patchen Avenue, bins were stationed on the corners of Monroe, Hancock, MacDonough and Sumpter streets.

One passerby told Brooklyn Paper’s sister site she was happy to see the bins arrive in the neighborhood, but she took a second trying to figure out how open the receptacle before noticing the instructions on the side: The bins are sealed shut and can only be opened through the NYC Compost app downloaded to a mobile phone.

smart compost bin on street corner
The bright orange bins must be opened with an app, and can be used to dispose of food scraps, soiled paper napkins and paper towels, and more — accepted items are illustrated on the side of the bins.Anna Bradley-Smith

As per the bright illustrations on the drop-off bins’ sides, they accept food scraps including vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat, bones and prepared food as well as food-soiled paper such as napkins, towels, plates, teabags and coffee filters. Also accepted is plant waste such as cut flowers and plants. The bins are available 24/7 and “will help reduce the amount of food scraps sent to landfills,” according to the Department of Sanitation website. All food scraps will be processed locally at “community scale compost sites” and the resulting compost will be used to “beautify green spaces across the city.”

“Whether it’s the steady roll-out of curbside composting, the addition of more community-based food scrap drop off sites, or these new Smart Bins, DSNY is committed to getting compostable material out of landfills,” then-DSNY Commissioner Edward Grayson said in the release. “We are excited to see how these new bins perform, and urge everyone who lives or works near one to give them a try.”

When the bins were first rolled out as part of a pilot program in lower Manhattan and Astoria 2021, DSNY said in a press release that it collects 12,000 tons of trash and recycling each day, and up to a third of the waste stream may be compostable. The pilot proved that the bins were “a popular and effective way to keep compostable material out of landfills,” according to the mayor’s office. 

In August, while announcing a full-borough composting program in Queens, Mayor Eric Adams said 250 Smart Compost bins would be installed across the city.

adams with compost bins for pilot program
Mayor Eric Adams introduced a borough-wide composting pilot program in Queens this past summer — with plans to expand the Smart Compost bins to the rest of the five boroughs in 2023. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

He added that new bins would be placed in communities across the five boroughs, with a focus on areas in Manhattan above 125th Street, the South Bronx, the North Shore of Staten Island and Central Brooklyn. 

Until the pandemic, NYC households composted food waste in vermin-proof brown bins they set out on the curb for pickup weekly. As well, a partnership of community and botanic gardens and Big Reuse continue to operate composting drop off at 75 sites citywide. DSNY spokesperson Vincent Gragnani confirmed a total of 250 bins will be installed, but did not specify where the remaining bins will be located.

Last month, local New York City councilmember Lincoln Restler introduced a bill that would make the public composting program permanent citywide — if passed, the legislation would require DSNY to install five public composting bins in each of the city’s 51 community districts. 

A version of this story first appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site Brownstoner

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