NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg's composting plan could create rat control problems.

NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s composting plan could create rat control problems.

New York Mayor Micheal Bloomberg’s plan to create a voluntary–and eventually mandatory–composting program for New York City residents has a dangerous downside. It could send the city’s rat population soaring.

New Yorkers would be required to separate organic matter and table scraps from other garbage for pick up by the city and delivery to composting facilities.

But table scraps are a prime source of food for rats and creating large concentrations of scraps for pick up, would be an ideal feeding and breeding ground for rats, especially in a densely packed city like New York.

“This is a rotten idea for the Big Apple,”says Jeff Stier, the New York City-based Director of Risk Analysis for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative non-profit group. The group, which pushes for “free market” solutions to economic problems.

The center supports voluntary composting and notes the city already has programs to send table scraps to gardens around the five boroughs. But Bloomberg’s program would be far larger.

Patterned after programs in cities like San Francisco, it would involve more than 5 percent of the city’s households and 600 schools to start, according to The New York Times.

Residents would collect food scraps in “picnic-basket-size” bins and deposit them in curbside containers for pickup.

The city’s rat population is unknown but most estimates put it at equal to the human population or around 8 million rodents. Some estimates, however, put the population at about 32 million, or four rats per person.

The city’s current rat control strategy involves proactive preventive steps like improving building integrity, using bait to sterilize rats and better garbage handling. Concentrating table scraps in locations for pickup, could create a significant new food source.

Rat populations vary in proportion to their food supply.

“Consider the increased risks from disease-carrying vermin from all of the pre-compost material sitting around our dense living spaces, not going out with the trash each night,” says Stier.