Changes to Trash Set-Out Times Show Early Positive Impact on Rat Activity

Mayor Adams announcing changes to containerization requirements for certain businesses this past June as part of the city’s ongoing efforts to address the rat population. Image Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

On July 25, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams, Sanitation Department (DSNY) Commissioner Jessica Tisch, and Director of Citywide Rodent Mitigation Kathleen Corradi announced that changing to later trash set-out times have had a positive impact on reducing rat activity citywide. Compared to the same period in 2022, the number of 311 calls made about rat activity citywide decreased by 20 percent from May to mid-July 2023, and the City’s four rat mitigation zones—Bronx Grand Concourse, Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant/Bushwick, and East Village/Chinatown—saw rat sighting calls decrease by more than 45 percent on average.

These improvements follow the City’s implementation of new trash set-out times and a corresponding trash collection schedule to decrease the amount of time garbage sits out and increase the use of containers citywide. Previously, residential buildings could place trash and recycling on curbs after 4:00 PM the night before collection. As a result, trash sat out for more than 14 hours in many neighborhoods, and approximately 15 percent of the City’s trash sat out for up to 32 hours. Under the new rules, residential buildings cannot set trash out until 8:00 PM or 6:00 PM if it is in a secure container. In addition, DSNY moved nearly 30 percent of collection from the daytime to the midnight shift and moved its largest shift an hour earlier to 5:00 AM, further reducing the time trash bags sit out on curbs to be accessed by rats.

Mayor Adams also announced that the administration will partner with the BUFNY II/Harlem Street Tenants Association to co-host Anti-Rat Community Days of Action in each borough in the coming months. The administration will co-host the first Day of Action on August 12 in the Harlem Rat Mitigation Zone—an area Mayor Adams designated to receive $3.5 million in funding for staff and equipment to reduce rodent activity earlier this year. The Day of Action will bring city and community partners together to care for trees, manage waste and litter, and mitigate rodents, as well as equip participants with the knowledge and resources to keep their community rat-free by highlighting existing programs.

These initiatives demonstrate the Adams administration’s focus on controlling rat populations by managing trash. Another such initiative is the Queens curbside organics program, which offers Queens residents a weekly collection of compostable materials kept in separate bins. In just three months, the program has kept 12.7 million pounds of waste out of black bags and in secure containers, prompting every other borough to promise a free weekly collection of compostable material by October 2024, with service beginning in Brooklyn this October. For more information about the citywide composting program, click here.

The Adams administration also furthered rat-mitigation efforts this summer by publishing a rule mandating that food-related businesses store trash in secure containers and releasing a new proposal requiring chain businesses with five or more locations to do the same. DSNY recommended implementing these rules in their report, “The Future of Trash,” which analyzes what it would take to eliminate trash bags from sidewalks completely. These rules will impact 25 percent of businesses citywide and require approximately 4 million pounds of waste produced daily to be placed in secure containers—making the City’s streets cleaner and more welcoming to all.

Mayor Adams stated, “New Yorkers may not know this about me—but I hate rats. It’s still early, but these numbers show what we’re doing is working and that we are moving in the right direction. Every food scrap that we keep out of the trash and every black bag that we keep off the street is a meal that we’re taking out of a hungry rodent’s stomach. It takes all of us to win the war on rats, so I encourage New Yorkers to keep composting, keep putting your trash in containers, and I hope to see you out there at one of our ‘Anti-Rat Community Days of Action.’”

DSNY Commissioner Tisch stated, “Rats eat what humans throw away, and whenever our trash sits on the sidewalk, the rats will line up for their dinner. Mayor Adams has empowered the Sanitation Department to demolish the status quo of black bags, to shut down the rat buffet, and to ‘Get Stuff Clean’ for all New Yorkers. These numbers show that these initiatives—from containerization to a modernized collection schedule to curbside composting—are getting results. We’re proving the haters wrong: you CAN clean up New York, and you CAN beat the rats.

Councilmember Joann Ariola stated, “The decline in calls that we’ve seen so far is a great start, but there is still plenty of work to be done to really tackle the rat problem in New York City. Through this Anti-Rat Community Day of Action—and hopefully many more like it in other areas of the five boroughs with noted rat issues—we can really engage the public in the City’s rat mitigation efforts and take even stronger steps towards eRATicating this problem once and for all.”

By: Dylan Shusterman (Dylan is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2025.)



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