New York City is tackling its food waste issues head on with an ambitious new plan to triple its compost program in 2017 to serve 600,000 households. Rather than letting food scraps rot alongside nonperishable varieties of garbage, the city has announced that it will be increasing its curbside pickup of organic waste, which will then be turned into compost for use throughout the city.

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For now and the foreseeable future, participation in the food waste pickup program, which the sanitation department currently calls the ‘Organics Collection Pilot Program,’ is voluntary for city residents. The food waste collection system is part of the city’s larger NYC zerowaste campaign, which works to make recycling of all sorts of waste products easier for residents. Learning that around 35 percent of the city’s refuse is made up of food may inspire more folks to get on board with the organic waste collection program, which you can easily sign up for online.

Related: Guerrilla compost bins disguised as newspaper boxes hit the streets of NYC

Forty percent of the city’s public schools are already participating, along with 400 apartment buildings in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Since the program’s inception in 2013, the city has diverted more than 25,000 tons of organic matter from landfills, according to Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. She said the project’s expansion next year will reach over a million city residents.

Turning food waste into nutrient-rich compost helps improve the city’s soil, making it much better for the environment than sending organic scraps to the landfill. Cutting down on food waste in the regular trash also helps drastically cut down on rodents and other pests, since they will find fewer tasty morsels lingering in the city’s trash cans.

Via NY Daily News

Images via NYC zerowasteOffice of the Mayor, and NYC Sanitation Department