For many, adding a bucket of old food to an already cramped urban apartment sounds absolutely miserable. But West Side resident Matt Murphy has stored a pail of leftovers on his floor for the last two months. And he swears he likes it there.
"Sure, I get some satisfaction out of it," Murphy said.
Murphy lives in a high-rise that participates in the city's pilot Organics Collection Program. He and other residents of the Helena on West 57th Street separate their food scraps into a separate bin before emptying that container into a larger bucket in the communal trash room.
This shuttling of decaying eats spawned from the mayor's state of the city address, where he called food waste the city's "final recycling frontier."
The mayor's office estimates the city spends $96 million every year just stashing old food in landfills. Composting even some of that waste or -- eventually -- building a plant to turn it into biogas and then electricity would save the city millions and also benefit the environment.
"We think this is a major step toward where we really want to get to," Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway said. "You want to be sending little or nothing toward landfills."
For those deeming a greener lifestyle not worth the social sacrifices of a smelly apartment, Murphy and others in pilot food-recycling high-rises promise the self-sealing bins can mask even the most pungent of entrees.
"The smell isn't any different than just regular garbage," Murphy said.
The mayor hopes to launch a larger program on a voluntary basis in more than 100,000 residences and hundreds of schools by the end of the year.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to limit the size of soda consumption, limit salt in food, and ban transfats. Not satisfied in regulating what New Yorkers eat, he now wants to regulate what the DON'T eat.
Bloomberg now wants to mandate recycling of food waste.
Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway says, "By recycling food waste, we can cut down on the total amount of trash we send to landfills and put it to better use as compost for community gardens or even energy. This is an innovative program that's already seen success in homes on Staten Island and our public schools, and we're excited to expand it to more New Yorkers."
In May, an organics recycling pilot program launched in Staten Island and 43 percent of the homes in the pilot are already participating, according to the city.
The city also launched organics recycling programs in about 90 public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan at the start of the current school year. The diversion rate in the Manhattan schools increased from 15 percent to 34 percent in the Manhattan schools and from 15 percent to 38 percent in the Brooklyn schools, according to the city.
The mayor is said to be hiring a composting plant to handle 100,000 tons of food scraps a year and that amount would represent about 10 percent of the city's residential food waste.
The residential program will initially work on a voluntary basis, but officials say that within a few years, it will be mandatory. New Yorkers who don"t separate their food scraps could be subject to fines -- just like they do if they don"t recycle plastic, paper or metal.