New York City has a food waste problem. But luckily, one of the best solutions is already within reach: composting! Composting is an easy, sustainable way to dispose of organic material, and with a growing network of composting services available, it’s more accessible than ever for New Yorkers.

In honor of curbside composting coming to Brooklyn this month, we’re doing a two-part series on food waste reduction in NYC. Follow along to learn more about how you can do your part! Read Part 1: How to Reduce Food Waste in NYC here.

What is composting?

Composting is the process of recycling organic waste into an enriched fertilizer for soil. Compost offers a host of benefits, including:

  • Diverts organic waste from landfills and incinerators, reducing GHG emissions
  • Prevents soil degradation and improves soil health
  • Promotes healthy plant growth and biodiversity
  • Aids in stormwater management
  • Enhances carbon sequestration

Disposing of food waste and other organic material in the garbage means it’ll eventually end up in a landfill, where it’ll decompose and produce methane. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas that’s responsible for retaining heat in the atmosphere and warming the planet. 

Composting is a sustainable way of diverting food waste from landfills that supports future plant growth and the circular economy.

Importance of Composting in NYC

Food waste is a major problem in New York City. It’s responsible for 20% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions (placing it third behind buildings and transportation), and it’s a major factor in the city’s growing rat population.

Our city produces a lot of waste, but the majority of it is divertable materials like organics, recyclables, e-waste and harmful household products. As of 2017, around 34% was organic material suitable for composting, meaning there’s a major opportunity for landfill diversion.

Composition of NYC's residential waste
A major portion of NYC’s residential waste is made up of organic materials, meaning there’s a big opportunity for landfill diversion. Credit

Composting is a simple, yet very important way to help our city reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and support green spaces.

Is composting mandatory in NYC?

Composting food and yard waste in Queens and Brooklyn is mandatory. Queens was the first borough to receive the NYC Department of Sanitation’s curbside composting service in the fall of 2022. Brooklyn has followed suit this fall, becoming the second borough to get curbside as of October 2023.

In June 2023, the city council passed the Zero Waste Act, making composting mandatory for all NYC residents beginning in October 2024 – when Manhattan will become the last of the boroughs to get curbside composting. 

If you live in Manhattan, Staten Island, or the Bronx, here’s when you can expect curbside composting:

  • Staten Island: March 2024
  • The Bronx: March 2024
  • Manhattan: October 2024

Mandatory composting requires New Yorkers to separate yard waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper from their garbage and dispose of it in compost bins. Compost should be set out on the curb just like trash and recycling, and DSNY will pick it up on your recycling day. Fines for non-compliance will not begin until around six months after the program goes into effect, but you can expect enforcement to be similar to recycling.

What is the NYC Compost Project?

The NYC Compost Project is a citywide composting education and outreach program founded in 1993 by the Sanitation Department. It works with several nonprofit organizations and botanical gardens to provide composting resources and workshops to residents, businesses and institutions. It offers the Master Composter Certificate Course with the goal of building a network of advanced composters who can help support DSNY’s community composting initiatives. 

Sanitation department's graphic showing what can and cannot be composted
DSNY’s curbside composting and smart bin services accept the items above. Drop-off sites, however, may restrict certain items like meat and dairy.

What can be composted in NYC?

Depending on where and how you compost in NYC, there may be different requirements for acceptable items. It’s always best to confirm with the host of the composting program, but here are some general guidelines.

What You CAN Compost

Whether you compost via curbside composting, community drop-off sites, or Smart Composting bins, you can always compost the following items:

  • Food scraps, including fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags, nuts, bread, rice, and pasta 
  • Plant waste, including leaf and yard waste and houseplants

Food scrap drop-off sites can generally only accept the above items. But for curbside composting and Smart Composting bins, you can also compost the following:

  • All food scraps, including the above PLUS meat, bones, dairy, and prepared foods
  • Uncoated food-soiled paper, like pizza boxes or used paper plates

What You CANNOT Compost

Most community drop-off sites cannot accept meat, fish, bones, dairy, prepared foods, or food-soiled paper.

No matter your composting location, there are some items that can never be composted. These include:

  • Garbage, including diapers, personal hygiene products, animal waste, wrappers, non-paper packaging, and foam products
  • Recyclable materials, like bottles and cans

How to Compost in New York City

Getting started with composting in NYC is fairly simple, and it’s becoming even easier as DSNY expands its composting network. Follow the steps below to get started. 

Step 1: Learn About NYC’s Composting Programs

The NYC Department of Sanitation provides composting services a few different ways, depending on your location:

  • Curbside Composting: compost is collected by sanitation workers every week along with your recycling. No sign-up is required once it’s in your area – it’s currently available in all of Queens and Brooklyn, and select areas of Manhattan and the Bronx.
  • Drop-Off Composting: many community gardens and farmer’s markets throughout the city host composting sites where you can drop-off your compost on certain days and times.
  • Smart Composting Bins: these are public composting bins located in select neighborhoods throughout the city where you can drop-off your compost any time of day. To use these bins, you’ll need to download an app which will allow you to view bins on a map, see which ones are available, and unlock the bins.

Step 2: Select a Composting Bin

In order to start composting, you’ll need somewhere to collect and store your compostable materials in between pick-ups or drop-offs. It’s important to consider both how much space you have and how much you’ll be composting regularly. 

There are many bin options out there – from electronic composters to worm bins – if you’d like to begin your own compost pile, but these aren’t necessary for those of us who don’t have the ability to garden at home. 

The average person who wants to participate in the city’s composting programs doesn’t need anything fancy – any kind of airtight container or even Ziploc bag will suffice for collecting food waste in your home between drop-offs.

For curbside composting, DSNY provides free brown bins at the start of service. But you can also use any labeled bin, 55 gallons or less, with a secure lid. You can line this bin with any type of bag.

Step 3: Collect Compostable Materials

To begin composting, you’ll need to start separating your food and yard waste from your other trash. Rather than disposing of organic matter in the garbage can, you should instead collect them in your composting bin. 

Your compost bin can sit out on your kitchen counter, or you can store it in your fridge or freezer to avoid bugs or prevent any smells from developing.

Step 4: Know What Not to Compost

Depending on where you’re dropping off your compost, there may be restrictions on what you can and cannot add to your compost. Community drop-off sites generally don’t accept meat, bones, dairy, or prepared foods, but you can double check with the host. 

If you have curbside composting or drop-off at a Smart Composting bin, you can generally compost any food waste, uncoated food-soiled paper, and plant waste.

Just remember: don’t put any trash or recyclable materials in your compost! This includes hygiene products, animal waste, and bottles and cans.

Step 5: Set Out or Drop Off Your Compost

Time to dispose of your compostable waste! 

If you’re participating in curbside composting, you should set out your brown bin every week at the same time as your recycling pick-up. 

If you’re dropping off at a Smart Composting bin, you can access the bins 24/7 using the app, provided they’re not at capacity – check the app to make sure. 

If you’re dropping off at a community site, double check its hours to make sure it’s open.

Where are compost drop-off locations in NYC?

You can check DSNY’s website to find a community drop-off site or Smart Composting bin near you. For drop-off sites, you can view the site’s hours and details regarding what items are accepted.

DSNY composting map in Brooklyn
Here’s a look at DSNY’s compost drop-off map. Orange represents Smart Composting Bins, and green represents Food Scrap Drop-Off Sites.

Future of NYC Composting

It’s safe to say that the future of NYC composting is bright, thanks to the efforts of DSNY and composting advocates all over the city. Within the next year, curbside composting will be available in all five boroughs, in addition to community drop-off sites and smart composting bins becoming more accessible. 

Awareness surrounding the importance of composting and supporting green spaces is continuing to grow amongst New Yorkers. We look forward to a future with less food waste in our city!

Start Composting in the City Today!

Composting is one of the best things you can do as an individual to help lower the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and support green spaces. We encourage you to follow the resources above to find a composting service near you and get started today.

If you’re a homeowner interested in learning about other ways you can become more sustainable, consider going solar! Schedule a free consultation with us to find out if your home is right for solar energy.

Food waste has taken center stage in New York City’s sustainability efforts, and for good reason. Food makes up a major portion of NYC’s waste, contributing significantly to landfill emissions. But there’s better, more sustainable ways for New Yorkers to consume and dispose of food.

In honor of curbside composting coming to all of Brooklyn this month, we’re doing a two-part series on food waste reduction in NYC. Follow along to learn more about how you can do your part! Read Part 2: How to Get Started Composting in NYC here.

Is food waste a problem in NYC?

In a city as densely populated as ours, there are lots of things that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. But you may be surprised to learn that food waste is a major contributor, making up 20% of the city’s emissions. That makes it the third largest contributor, behind buildings and transportation.

When food and other organic waste is sent to landfills, it emits methane as it breaks down. Not only that, but black trash bags full of food on our sidewalks provide nourishment for the city’s rampant rat population. Food waste is a big problem, but it’s one that can easily be turned into a sustainable solution. 

Composition of NYC's residential waste
A major portion of NYC’s residential waste is made up of organic materials, meaning there’s a big opportunity for landfill diversion. Credit

Environmental Consequences of Food Waste

Food waste is a problem that has a number of consequences for the climate, environment, and public health.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Globally, the food supply chain generates a significant amount of GHG emissions. The production, processing, storing, and transportation of food makes up about a third of the world’s emissions. Of these emissions, about half are attributed to waste.

When food and other organic material is sent to landfills, it decomposes over time. The byproduct of the decomposition process is methane, which is a greenhouse gas that’s even more potent than carbon dioxide. It traps a lot of heat in the atmosphere and contributes to the warming of the planet.

Resource Depletion

Producing food requires lots of natural resources, namely water and energy. When food is wasted, we waste the resources that went into producing it. 

Research shows that wasted food accounts for a quarter of the agriculture industry’s water supply. At a time when many areas of the world, including parts of the U.S., have been facing severe droughts and water shortages, water conservation should be a priority.

NYC Department of Sanitation's "Send Rats Packing" campaign poster
In April 2023, DSNY changed garbage set out times in an attempt to alleviate the city’s growing rat population.

Public Health

Since the pandemic, rat populations in cities have been booming. The main reason is garbage: where there’s food, there will be rats. As any New Yorker knows, walking down the sidewalk on trash night means you might stumble upon one (or a few). Leaving trash bags full of food waste outside multiple times a week gives rats plenty of opportunity to feast. 

The NYC Department of Sanitation has implemented several policies aimed at decreasing the rat population, including mandated trash containerization, limited hours for putting trash out, and curbside composting. Reducing and diverting food waste is a solution to a major public health issue.

7 Ways NYC Homeowners Can Reduce Food Waste

Food waste is a big problem for New York City, but it’s a problem that can largely be mitigated when individuals make simple lifestyle changes.

1. Plan Meals and Shop Intentionally

One of the best ways to reduce food waste within your household is to only buy what you are actually going to eat. Planning your meals and portion sizes and making a list ahead of your grocery run takes just a few extra minutes, and it’ll save you from picking up items that you may not eat. This not only prevents you from creating waste, but it saves you time and money too.

2. Store Food Properly

Using airtight containers to store fresh food in your refrigerator and freezer can help it last longer. You can organize your refrigerator and cupboards so that older food is in the front and newer food is in the back. Add date labels to refrigerated and frozen items to help keep track of how old each item is. This is a food storage practice called First in, First Out (FIFO) – the oldest food (first in) should be the next to be used (first out).

3. Understand Expiry Dates

There is a difference between “Best Before” and “Use By” dates on food. Foods with “best before” dates may still be safe to eat after that date, whereas “use by” dates indicate that the item is no longer safe to eat. Double check before you discard it!

4. Embrace Leftovers

If you cook or order too much food for dinner, refrigerate or freeze it to eat at a later date. Same for ingredients: if you only need half an onion for a recipe, save the other half and repurpose it the next time you cook – just make sure to store it properly!

5. Reduce Portion Sizes

It’s important to only cook or order as much food as you plan to eat. When your portion sizes are too large, you’ll likely have leftovers – and if you’re not keen on eating leftovers, you’ll likely create waste.

6. Donate Surplus Food

If you have a surplus of non-perishables sitting in your cupboards, you can find a food pantry or soup kitchen near you and donate them. If you’re in Park Slope or Gowanus, our friends at CHiPS are always accepting donations. 

7. Compost Your Food Scraps

Let’s face it: even if you practice all of the tips above, you’re still going to create some waste. But rather than throwing your food in the garbage, you can make a meaningful impact by composting it instead. 

Generally, you can compost all food, anything that grows in the dirt, food-soiled paper products, and yard scraps through the city’s curbside composting program. However, some community drop-off sites may not want things like meat, bones, or dairy – double check this before you drop off.

Composting is a food waste solution that provides all sorts of benefits:

  • Diverts organic waste from landfills and incinerators, therefore reducing GHG emissions
  • Prevents soil degradation and improves soil health
  • Promotes healthy plant growth and biodiversity
  • Aids in stormwater management
  • Enhances carbon sequestration

If you’re a resident of Brooklyn or Queens, curbside composting is now available to you. If you live in Manhattan, the Bronx, or Staten Island, you may have food scrap drop-off sites, smart compost bins, or community gardens near you. Learn more from the NYC Compost Project.

NYC's smart compost bins
NYC Smart Compost Bins Credit

Do NYC residents have to compost food scraps?

In June 2023, the city council passed the Zero Waste Act, making composting mandatory for all NYC residents beginning in October 2024 – when Manhattan will become the last of the boroughs to get curbside composting. 

This law requires all New Yorkers to place all of their food and yard waste into compost bins, which will be picked up by DSNY along with their recycling. Fines for non-compliance will not begin until around six months after the program goes into effect, but you can expect enforcement to be similar to recycling.

Make a Positive Impact with Food Waste in NYC

Food waste is a major contributor to climate change, and it’s a problem for the health of our city too. However, it’s a problem that’s relatively easy for individuals to tackle. By making simple changes to the way we consume and dispose of food, we can make a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions in our city.

If you’re a homeowner who’s interested in other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, clean energy could be another great option for you. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.

Brooklyn SolarWorks was founded in 2015 with the goal to make solar appealing and accessible for Brooklyn homeowners. But we understand that homeowners aren’t the only Brooklynites who want to reduce their use of fossil fuels. That’s why we look to support local non-profit organizations, like CHiPS, by providing solar energy for them. 

Last month, we installed a solar canopy on the rooftop of CHiPS’s building on 4th Avenue – right down the street from us! Continue reading to learn about the wonderful work that CHiPS does and how our organizations collaborated on this project.

What is CHiPS?

CHiPS (Community Help in Park Slope) has been serving the Park Slope-Gowanus community since 1971. The organization is committed to cultivating equity and resilience through its free-of-charge food distribution and housing programs. 

The CHiPS Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen serves hot, nutritious meals to around 150 New Yorkers everyday. Last year, the organization provided over 100,000 meals to those in need, along with clothing, toiletries, and other necessities.

The organization’s Frances Residence Program provides shelter to expecting or single mothers and their infants, as well as pre and postnatal care. The program offers year-long housing in fully furnished studio apartments. It also offers counseling and other services to help mothers secure permanent housing and employment and learn parenting skills.

Prior to the pandemic, CHiPS welcomed over 100 volunteers to support the Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen. The organization has also built a broad network of schools, churches, synagogues, organizations, and donors throughout the community.

How did BSW help?

For this project, we installed a six truss solar canopy consisting of 52 LG 380 panels. This is a 20 kW system that we expect will produce around 23,000 kWh of energy per year. This equates to electric savings of around $6,000 a year.

“We started Brooklyn SolarWorks because we wanted to build solar where we lived,” Brooklyn SolarWorks President and Founder Gaelen McKee said. “We’re a very community driven company and the community has been good to us, so we wanted to give something back. 

The CHiPS project was a great opportunity for us to help a local non-profit save some money on their power bill while also giving us the satisfaction of seeing an awesome solar canopy every time we drive down 4th Ave.”

How will CHiPS use its solar?

CHiPS will be using its new solar system as an independent energy source to power its facilities. This includes its soup kitchen and its transitional apartments for mothers and their babies. 

“In 2021, our focus has been all about ‘moving forward’ at CHiPS, in every possible way,” said the administrative staff at CHiPS. “We looked to solar as a way to update our operations to a greener, forward-thinking energy source that would also support our desire to be responsible stewards and citizens of the Park Slope and Gowanus communities.”

We’re incredibly proud of this project and so appreciative of the opportunity to continue spreading solar in our community. We look forward to continuing to connect with and provide solar to other community based organizations like CHiPS.

Questions? Reach out to our team at 347-318-4771 or schedule your free consultation here.

Company launched in 2015 also expands solar rooftop footprint beyond Brooklyn into Manhattan and Queens with 80+ installs.

It is extremely fulfilling to know that we’ve installed 1000 solar systems here in NYC – each one has been a gratifying experience of “flipping the switch” to clean solar energy,” said T.R. Ludwig, CEO and Founder, Brooklyn SolarWorks.


Brooklyn SolarWorks, a leading residential solar system design and installation provider, today announced the completion of its 1,000th installation with many hundreds of those installations custom designed to meet stringent landmark property rooftop codes in New York City (NYC). Originally developed as a NYC-specific product to make solar viable on the most challenging townhome roofs, the company’s patented, award-winning solar energy systems are now available everywhere in the U.S. through its subsidiary Brooklyn Solar Canopy.

Launched in 2015 with a hyper local focus on Brooklyn, Brooklyn SolarWorks has since expanded its “solar rooftop footprint” into Manhattan and Queens with 80+ installations. The company has also been a consistent jobs generator and made a significant impact on the “new economy” in NYC by employing more than 50 local team members.

“It is extremely fulfilling to know that we’ve installed 1000 solar systems here in NYC – each one has been a gratifying experience of “flipping the switch” to clean solar energy, said T.R. Ludwig, CEO and Founder, Brooklyn SolarWorks. “Our customers are the cornerstone of our business and we are so thankful for their support and engagement with their projects. Our amazing team of solar warriors brave the NYC landscape daily and have changed this city one rooftop at a time. We look forward to this new chapter of Brooklyn SolarWorks by spreading solar power throughout NYC and making it as accessible as possible for all New Yorkers. We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the clean energy transition now and in the future.”

In addition to the 1,000th installation and strategic expansion into the other boroughs of New York City, Brooklyn SolarWorks also announced the following significant milestones and key initiatives:

  • Providing ongoing support for local non-profit organizations like CHiPS, a soup kitchen and shelter for homeless mothers located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Brooklyn SolarWorks installed a rooftop solar energy system at the organization’s location as part of New York State’s Inclusive Community Solar Adder program
  • CEO/Founder T.R. Ludwig provided solar industry thought leadership in a New York Times column on ways individuals and households can reduce their carbon footprint(s).
  • Ludwig also co-authored a bylined article “Urban Solar Can Interconnection Can Be Modernized, Simplified and Standardized” that was featured in Solar Power World.

Brooklyn SolarWorks’ expansion into the other four boroughs of NYC included installations and educational efforts on the benefits of solar power in the world famous Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan.

“Harlem, one of NYC’s most culturally rich and historic neighborhoods, is full of flat roof residential buildings and homeowners that are interested in switching to clean energy,” said Ludwig. “It is well known that communities of color, like those found in Northern Manhattan, are disproportionately impacted by air pollution and greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels. Replacing conventional energy sources, one building at a time, can impact the entire city. That’s why our canvass team has been regularly speaking with individuals in Harlem to spread information regarding the process of going solar in NYC and the rebates that can be claimed during tax season.”

Brooklyn SolarWorks has also been an active participant in New York State’s “CarbonZero” initiative, which aims to eliminate greenhouse emissions across the state by the year 2050. To date, Brooklyn SolarWorks has produced more than 12 million kilowatthours (kWh) of clean energy, which is equal to:

  • The carbon sequestered by 3,438 acres of US forest in one year
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from 7,502,994 miles driven by a passenger vehicle
  • Co2 emissions from 3,101,848 pounds of coal burned
  • Co2 emissions from 341,375,807 smartphones charged
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy

For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please visit

About Brooklyn SolarWorks

Founded in 2015 Brooklyn SolarWorks is the borough’s leading residential solar system design and installation provider with 1,000+ systems completed. Our continued success owes to our skilled and energetic team; a locally tailored approach to design and construction; an unparalleled mastery of city codes and regulations; and our hyper-local focus on the unique needs and expectations of the New York homeowner and sophisticated real estate markets. For more information, please visit

Read the full press release here.