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Wake up and smell the rotting coffee grounds! • Brooklyn Paper

Wake up and smell the rotting coffee grounds!

Making a stink: Greenpoint residents say misuse of the new compost bins is creating terrible smells and maggots around the neighborhood.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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 dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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