Could requiring food-related businesses to use containers with lids make the difference in the city’s battle against rats?
In an effort to keep trash off the curb, the New York City sanitation department is requiring all food businesses to use containers when setting their waste rather than leaving a hefty amount of trash bags that attract rats. The rule went into effect Aug. 1 and beginning Sept. 1, fines may be issued to food related businesses that do not comply.
“Plastic bags awaiting collection on the curb create dirty conditions and are an all-you-can-eat buffet for rats that have easy access to their next meal. Putting this material in containers, with lids, will create a cleaner City – the kind all New Yorkers expect and deserve,” said Jessica Tisch, sanitation department commissioner, in a press release.
It is no secret that the city has a large population of rats living on its streets, sewers, and trash. The often-purported urban legend claims that the city has more rats than it does people. Though a 2014 study by Jonathan Auerbach estimates that number to be much lower at 2 million. Nevertheless one rat in someone’s peripheral is usually one too many, so it is no surprise to see the issue being tackled. But is it making a difference yet?
An employee at Addeo’s Riverdale Pizzeria said he’s seen a positive change since they’ve changed to bins for the outdoor area. Where it was somewhat an issue months ago, it is no longer one he says.
“Once we changed to bins,” he said, “we haven’t seen any skunks, or rats.”
Under the new rule restaurants, delis, bodegas, grocery stores, caterers, and other food-related businesses must use “rigid lidded containers.” Though this requirement does not apply to other recyclables or businesses that have waste collected from a loading dock.
A majority of food businesses on Broadway claimed not to have an issue with rats. Though a bakery and a flower shop with a staircase separating the two have both said they’ve seen their fair share of them, despite bins being required now.
“Honestly I don’t think what’s going on with the garbage containers is going to help at all,” said Gladys Grijalva, an employee at Sugarboy Bakery “That’s my personal opinion. For one, because buildings are not, you know, doing the same thing. And in buildings you have a lot of garbage that goes out, so what are they doing to prevent that?”
Grijalva said that if they’re going to be giving out fines to businesses, it should also include buildings, supermarkets, and everyone else who deals with food.
“They can’t just summon one person,” Grijalva said. “Because the issue doesn’t come just from one person, it comes from a whole league of them.”
Despite the rules, Grijalva said the city will have a difficult time getting rids of rats. She pointed out garbage on the curb outside the bakery, saying even with lids on a container rats find a way.
She said that once it gets dark, the rats get out of their holes and travel up and down the steps that separates the bakery from the flower shop. For the bakery, they thankfully have a piece of metal on the door that bars entrance for rats looking for a piece of cake.
Roman Sanchez, of RSH Flower, across from the bakery, spoke about how rats hide in holes in the nearby area. While they don’t go after the flowers, they are drawn to the trash posted on the street, he said, also noting how bad they smell.
“We see them more at night,” Sanchez’s son said of the staircase next to the shop.
The Press also witnessed dozens of rats running amok at the site by the steps around 8 p.m. with about six crowded together at one spot feeding on something on the ground.
A man on the steps told The Press said they are drawn there because no one cleans up the trash. Grijalva said that even though there is a garbage can along the street its typical for people to throw garbage on the street anyways. For that reason she thinks the city needs to “clean up ourselves.”
There are ways for people to prevent rats outside of using lidded containers.
Jeffrey Dworkin, president of Ecology Exterminating, advises customers to use metal containers or heavy duty bags to prevent rats from easily chewing through plastic. He says in many cases rats are able to gnaw through wooden containers to get into the trash.
Because garbage can sit four to five days without being picked up, Dworkin also advises making areas rodent proof. This can be done by cleaning up debris out front or tending to gardens with overgrown foliage that provide shade to rats.
For Dworkin, and the exterminators, they unsurprisingly receive phone calls everyday about rats from all five boroughs. When responding, they use gas to kill the rats.
“When we gas them we have to make sure we cover all holes,” Dworkin said. “We cover them with sandbags, we leave one hole open that (we) can gas.”
Kathleen Corradi, citywide director of rodent mitigation, advised New York residents to wash down the curb with a mix of bleach and water resolution to help disrupt rats’ pathways.
“Citywide we’re cutting off rats from their food,” Corradi said at a public safety briefing July 28. “We know if you feed them you breed them. Through DSNY’s new curb set out times and rules around containerization for food establishments we’re systematically taking away rats access to fruit, food on our curbs and making New York a cleaner city.”
Starting Sept. 5, the lidded containerization requirements extends to all chain businesses with five or more locations, regardless of what they sell.