With New York City becoming an “all-night, all-you-can-eat rat buffet,” city officials are moving to limit the number of hours residential and commercial trash can sit on the curb before it’s picked up.
Joined by Mayor Eric Adams at a news conference this week, Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch made the announcement that she said “rats are going to absolutely hate,” changing the time that trash bags can be dropped off at the curb to 8 p.m. from 4 p.m. :00. can take out their trash by 6 p.m. if the bags are placed in sealed containers, according to the new rules. Garbage must still be placed at the curb by midnight.
“The rats don’t run this city,” the commissioner said. “We do.”
But urban ecologist Michael Parsons is skeptical of the city’s latest move to combat the growing complaints about litter piles and rat sightings on New York sidewalks.
“Many of the rodent experts have mixed feelings about this,” Parsons said of the plan. “On the one hand, we are happy that something is happening. On the other hand, we argued that it is much better to proactively work on the problem rather than some knee-jerk reaction.”
With restaurants closed or open at limited capacity during the coronavirus pandemic, rodent activity has increased in urban areas as rats have sought food sources other than restaurant garbage.
“We knew that because of all the new food sources that rats had from all the new people working from home, cooking from home and more waste being created from home, there was a chance that there would be a wide population expansion and possibly even increase … and so here it is happening,” said Parsons.
Adams told reporters New York City’s rules have been in place since the late 1960s about the hours trash is allowed to sit curbside for pickup.
Tisch said the city will also allow large buildings with nine or more units to opt into an early morning exit time of 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. once a year.
“We do a lot more collection on the midnight shift rather than the 6am shift,” she said. “About 25 percent of all our collection now takes place at midnight. And for the large buildings that opt for the 4 to 7 a.m. displays, we will design custom routes to get the trash off the street almost immediately.”
The goal, Tisch said, is to reduce the number of hours trash sits at the curb from about 14 hours to four hours with the additional collections on the midnight shift.
“This will reduce the amount of time the trash is on the street before collection, keep our streets cleaner for a longer period of time and discourage rodents from running their own version of what we like to call open restaurants,” Adams said.
“No more tripping over black bags during rush hour. You no longer have to watch these bags lying on our sidewalks earlier in the day.”
Orkin, an Atlanta-based pest control service, released its annual ranking of U.S. cities on Monday, based on the number of new rodent treatments from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 of each year.
For the eighth consecutive year, Chicago took first place, followed by New York and then Los Angeles.
Michael Deutsch, an urban entomologist based on Long Island, does not believe the change in hours will result in a significant decrease in New York City’s rodent population.
“In my opinion, the impact will be minimal because rats are very resourceful. They are survivors,” he said.
“The mayor has (his) hands full. And it’s an effort on his part – and I take my hat off to him – to do the right thing. But I don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact. The optics (are) going to be beautiful… Whether it will lead to the reduction of the rodent population, it is extremely doubtful.”