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In a bid to combat the rise of record-setting rat sightings, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is floating a proposal to curb the seemingly never-ending presence of odorous trash bags on New York’s sidewalks with a new rule that would shift trash take-out to 8pm. 

New York’s trash hours cause many problems on the streets. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“Rush hour shouldn’t be trash hour,” DSNY spokesperson Joshua Goodman told W42ST. “New Yorkers put millions of pounds of trash and recycling on the street starting at 4pm – right as the evening rush is getting underway – and then it stays out, serving as a nightclub for rats and other pests, until it’s collected. Well soon, we’re going to try to shut the club down.” 

New York currently has the earliest policy compared to other cities, Goodman said, pointing out that the 4pm set-out time often leaves bags of trash on the street for nearly a full day before being removed. “New Yorkers have been told that this is just the way it is — as if looking at trash all afternoon was our birthright. Enough already,” he added. 

The DSNY picks up as much as 24 million pounds of trash daily — a significant increase from pre-pandemic numbers as New Yorkers working from home produce more household waste. Despite former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2015 declaration that the city would stop sending residential trash to landfills by 2030, there has been little to no progress. According to a DSNY annual report, the city shipped out 3.4 million tons of household trash to landfills between July 2020 and June 2021 — up from 3.2 million tons the previous year. 

In Hell’s Kitchen, the pile-up has been felt by residents and business owners alike, many of whom have been trying to evict rodent populations from their outdoor dining sheds. Mayor Eric Adams recently launched a pilot program installing large, rat-proof curb containers in Times Square, with plans to add more across Hell’s Kitchen this fall

City Council member Erik Bottcher, who has been a vocal advocate for clean street solutions in Hell’s Kitchen, was pleased to hear of the DSNY’s proposal. Said Bottcher: “This is a smart move. That’s four fewer hours that rats will have a sidewalk buffet. Of course, we need to move to completely eliminate piles of trash on our sidewalks, but this is a step we can take right now. I’m very glad to see our city taking steps to address the sanitation crisis.”

Trash bags piled on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen last night. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Catie Savage, the Trash Queen and founder of the volunteer Hell’s Kitchen Litter Legion, is on the front lines of the fight against filth. “Moving trash put-out to 8pm is a great first step in mitigating our massive rat problem,” she said, adding that it was only one solution for the long-tail issue. 

“It is imperative that the City Council pass mandatory curbside composting city-wide to remove all food scraps from these bags and into rodent proof compost bins,” she explained. “Mandatory composting, along with enforcement of existing composting laws for certain businesses, will have a huge impact on the rat population.” The city has recently resumed doling out penalties for businesses who don’t separate their organic waste as a means of enforcing commercial composting.

For those looking to increase residential composting practice, Savage cited an interactive DSNY map of the open bins, operating hours and regulations. For non-compostable trash, Savage advises residents to “avoid leaving them next to or inside tree pits, as this essentially brings the buffet right to the rats’ door.” 

Piles of trash bags are a familiar sight on Hell’s Kitchen’s streets. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Potential approval and implementation are still up in the air for the DSNY proposal, pending a formal public commentary period.  For now, the DSNY hopes to push the need for change forward. “Clean streets are essential to the City’s recovery, and between these changes and our five-borough containerization pilot, we’re lathering up to shave New York’s 5 o’clock shadow of trash bags,” said Goodman. 

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5 Comments

  1. This idea seems a little off to me. The trash will still sit out overnight in ugly bags all over the street. What about containers? I thought that was being tested? And who is going to put out that trash at 8pm in buildings where the porters/supers have already gone home for the day? This late time doesn’t seem to account for that.

  2. The bins they tested in Times Square were not well constructed or thought out. (AND they are ugly!) We don’t need more obstacles on our streets. Instead of putting the trash on the street later in the day, how about having another round of sanitation pick up in the afternoon? Hire more people…creating jobs, and clearing the streets!

    1. Ditto to earlier trash pickups. Soon after Covid struck Sanitation began getting trash off the curbs by 8:00 or 9:00PM. It was great for a while, then lapsed back into business as usual. Why should supers, etc. be punished with nightly duties on top of being available to their tenants all day when it is delayed trash removal that is the problem?

  3. PS- the rodent problem got out of hand as a direct result of the city allowing these outdoor dining stalls that provide food and shelter to the rodent population. Enough already. Get rid of them. ALL of them.

    1. And another thing: Sanitation continually misses my garbage at one of my locations because the outdoor dining stalls on that block force displacement of the trash. It should be placed at the curb directly opposite the building’s entrance but since it is forced to be nearly at the corner of the block, it is constantly mistaken for being commercial garbage that was put out for collection by the restaurants.

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