Editorial: Bloomberg's food-waste recycling could save big bucks
Never mind those controversial touches like tables and chairs in Times Square and the bike lanes all over town that have slyly elbowed their way into street space once the sole province of motor traffic.
We'll remember Mayor Michael Bloomberg for all of that -- but when he leaves office at year's end, what we may remember him for most is his policy on table scraps.
The mayor is ratcheting up a program that will ask city residents to sort their garbage and separate out the food waste which -- instead of going to a landfill -- will be composted and converted into useful products such as fertilizer and natural gas.
Yes, we know, this sounds like a grungy nuisance. But it's a smart move for the city -- good for the environment and therapeutic for the municipal budget.
It will ultimately benefit all of us. The mayor's plan aims to sharply cut the city's endless quest for landfill space and lighten the load for taxpayers who pay a rate of $80 per ton in public funds to have their food waste buried. The city pays $300 million per year to dispose of waste from all sources -- and food scraps are about 35 percent of that total.
The savings add up to real money over time.
The city's program began in May on Staten Island, and news reports say participation has been unexpectedly high. The mayor wants to have 150,000 single-family homes and 100 apartment buildings participating by 2016 and make the program mandatory by 2017.
Unfortunately for Bloomberg, the two biggest U.S. cities with mandatory food composting programs are San Francisco and Seattle -- so expect more howls from people who think he's trying to turn our hard-charging town into a community of latte-sipping West Coast snobs. He isn't. This and his similar programs simply envision a city that's more livable and environmentally sustainable.
The obvious catch, of course, is that Bloomberg won't be running the city in 2017. So the task he faces today is to crank the Sanitation Department into high gear with a program that New Yorkers enthusiastically embrace and his successor dares not scrap.