Padre Plaza Success Garden in Mott Haven is among the places in the South Bronx where residents can drop off food scraps and food-soiled paper year round. By Christine Zeiger.

Good news for the planet, bad news for rats.

Curbside composting will be available to all Bronx residents beginning on Oct. 6, 2024, according to the Department of Sanitation. On that date all five boroughs will have been entered into the citywide program, which requires New Yorkers to separate all leaf and yard waste, food scraps and food soiled paper from their regular garbage at home. Data suggests that curbside composting efforts are having an impact. In 2023, the program’s expansion in Queens helped divert more than 105,000 tons of organic material from landfills – a 36 percent increase compared to 2022, the Mayor’s Management Report shows.

Until curbside composting arrives, there are places for South Bronx residents to unload their organic waste responsibly. The Padre Plaza Success Garden food scrap drop-off site in Mott Haven, operated by the nonprofit GrowNYC, is one example. Last year, the site was one of many that were narrowly saved from budget cuts that slashed funding for community composting across the city.

Josue Mendez-Pietsch, a longtime Mott Haven resident who staffs the Padra Plaza site on 139th Street, said that composting – the recycling of organic waste – reduces garbage and keeps rodents at bay.

“[Composting] cuts down on a lot of trash that would otherwise end up on the street, but also takes food away from rats that love to get into the trash [bags],” he said.

The drop-off site Mendez-Pietsch works at helps educate the community on composting. To newbies, he recommends starting small. “If you have a salad, and you see a piece of lettuce that’s bad, you might say, ‘Okay, I’ll just separate that out and compost it. Then it’s ‘Oh, I have some leftover rice that I can’t eat. I’ll put that in,’” said Mendez-Pietch, who personally began composting three years ago. “Starting small really helps.”

Step 1. What is composting? Why is it important?

Composting is “a process that converts organic materials into a nutrient-rich, biologically-stable soil amendment or mulch through natural decomposition” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Collecting banana peels, kale stems, and other reusable materials also keeps them out of the landfill. This is important because landfills release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. EPA research shows that wasted food causes 58 percent of methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills.

Step 2. Know what you can compost.

The answer to this depends on the drop-off location.

GrowNYC drop-off sites, including Padre Plaza, accept all fruit and vegetable scraps, as well as egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags and food-soiled brown paper. See their full list of compostable items. Food scraps and food-soiled paper dropped off at GrowNYC locations are made into soil that is distributed to community gardens throughout the city, according to the organization’s website.

Smart composting bins administered by DSNY accept “all food scraps, plant waste, and food-soiled paper. This includes meat, bones, dairy, prepared foods, and greasy uncoated paper plates and pizza boxes,” according to the New York City Department of Sanitation’s website. After bins are emptied, they are sent to the Newtown Creek wastewater treatment facility and turned into biosolids.

Step 3. Find a drop off location.

Map is courtesy of the New York City Department of Sanitation

The following drop-off locations are closest to South Bronx residents:

Smart composting bins (orange pins):

  1. Northwest corner of Bruckner Boulevard & Evergreen Ave. (Soundview)
  2. Northwest corner of Gerard Ave. & East 150 St. (Highbridge)

Community drop-off sites (green pins):

  1. New Roots Community Farm: 670 Grand Concourse, The Bronx, NY 10451 (Melrose)
  2. Padre Plaza Community Garden: 541 E 139th St, Bronx, NY 10454 (Mott Haven)

What’s next: Curbside composting

Curbside composting will be available to all Bronx residents beginning on Oct. 6, 2024, according to the Department of Sanitation. The Bronx follows Queens, Brooklyn, and select areas of the Bronx and Manhattan in the agency’s program, which collects compostable items on the same day recycling is picked up.

Mott Haven resident Jessica Ortiz is excited about this news. She used to compost but said she stopped because her nearby drop-off site was only open once a week, and storing food scraps for that long took up a lot of space in her refrigerator and freezer, and brought flies.

Ortiz said that environmental programs like curbside composting in the South Bronx are important for the lessons they teach younger generations.

“Seeing these services in our neighborhoods makes children curious,” she said. “[The programs] broaden their horizons and provide an opportunity for them to engage with their community in a meaningful way, while also learning skills that will benefit them when they grow older.”

See the motthavennews Instagram to get all the details about how you can take advantage of curbside composting:


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