Acceptable: pizza boxes (which typically are too greasy to recycle), fish bones, cheese, corn cobs, chicken, orange peels, veggie scraps and cooked leftovers, old yogurt, watermelon rind and non-bleached paper towels, floor sweepings, drier lint, cotton cloth, hair (human and animal), leather, seaweed, sawdust, tea bags (remove the staple), Chinese food cartons (remove the metal handle).
Not acceptable: poop (pet or diaper), cigarette butts, crayon wax, paint, cosmetics, twist ties, bloody bandages, aquarium water, poisonous plants and tea-bag staples.
“How about used tissues?” asked Margaret Weigers Vitullo, their mother. No.
The following Monday, the Vitullo’s compost pail went out to the curb. Braithwaite, keeping an eye on the new trash routine, trotted along with a trash truck as city workers moved along the line of buckets on Sycamore Avenue: spin top, yank bag, toss, jog.
“They say they’re not having any trouble with it,” Braithwaite said, a little out of breath.
But there were not that many buckets. Only about 20 percent of eligible households signed up for the starter program, which Braithwaite called disappointing. She’s heard from many families who already compost (and don’t want to give up the resulting soil) , and others who just don’t want to get so intimate with their food scraps.
“People say, ‘It’s going to smell my kitchen up; I’m going to get fruit flies,’ ” said Jessica Weiss, director of GrowingSOUL, one of two local compost firms working with the city.
According to Braithwaite, participation in the now-popular recycling program was similarly slow to build. Officials would leave reminders for people who left too many cans and bottles in their regular trash or, with repeat offenders, refuse to take away the sustainably incorrect garbage.
“Once someone who hadn’t had their trash picked up in a couple of weeks came in and dumped it on my desk,” Braithwaite said with a laugh.
But recycling became the norm. More than 85 percent of households separate their trash, according to the town’s last survey. “We don’t actively enforce it anymore, the parcipation rate is so good,” she said.
Braithwaite doesn’t expect compost collection, if it expands, to be mandatory. “It’s not as straightforward as separating cans and bottles,” she said. “I have already had a phone call this morning: ‘Are you sure we can take pizza boxes?’ ”
National observers also see similarities to the growth of municipal recycling. And New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s (I) announcement last month of a curbside food scrap pilot program that will start on Staten Island and then potentially go Gotham-wide was seen as a game changer.