Hot dog stand

New Yorkers could soon have to separate their leftover food waste from the rest of their trash if Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new proposal for citywide composting is approved.

Already, several city pilot programs for composting have been successful, reports the New York Times, and New York wouldn’t be the first major U.S. city to regulate food waste (Seattle and San Francisco both have food composting programs).

Initially, the program would be voluntary, but hopes are that it would become mandatory, with fines for New Yorkers, similar to penalties for failing to recycle plastic, paper or metal. More than 150,000 city residents would start the program next year along with 600 schools, expanding to the entire city by 2015 or 2016 at the latest.

The city is expected to announce that it’s hired a composting plant, which would process 100,000 tons of food scraps every year—about 10 percent of New Yorkers food waste. And, the Times reports, the city will consider proposals for building an additional plant to turn food waste into biogas that would help to power the city.

Caswell F. Holloway IV, the city’s deputy mayor said the program is going to be “really transformative,” and would help get the city on a trajectory where it’s “not sending anything to landfills.”

Bloomberg addressed food waste as the city’s “final recycling frontier.”

“We bury 1.2 million tons of food waste in landfills every year at a cost of nearly $80 per ton,” he said during his State of City address in February. “That waste can be used as fertilizer or converted to energy at a much lower price. That’s good for the environment and for taxpayers.”

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Image: Susan NYC