Rats are an anticipated nuisance of city living, but recent sanitation laws might keep them off the streets for good.
New York is the perfect place for a rat to settle down: dark tunnels to burrow in, and an all-you-can-eat buffet on every street corner. Unfortunately for human New Yorkers, the rat population grows larger every year. In 2022, city health inspectors documented 60,000 instances of rat activity — double the amount of sightings in 2021. The pandemic could be to blame for this sudden rat boom; some say increased foot traffic and food waste brought rodents out of hiding, while others claim that construction disturbs their burrows. In May 2022, the New York City Council passed a bill requiring certain projects to conduct pest control before acquiring a permit. In order for this city to remain clean and functional, it’s imperative that the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) crack down on the issue.
In June 2023, the DSNY announced a phased initiative to get trash bags off city sidewalks. The first mandate, which went into effect this summer, required all chain and food businesses to place trash into secure containers. On March 1, 2024, this mandate will extend to all businesses in NYC, hopefully leading to a drastic decrease in rat activity. All commercial trash amounts to about 20 million pounds of waste every day!
Recently, a new containerizing mandate was proposed for 95% of all residential properties. All buildings with 9 or fewer tenants will be required to secure trash in containers by fall 2024, and official NYC Bins will be provided by summer 2026. Currently, the city is flexible on what bins are considered acceptable for holding trash. As long as they have a lid and secure sides, they’re efficient enough to keep rats out.
So far, the mandates have proved successful. Rat activity this past summer dropped by 20% compared to the summer of 2022, providing the first evidence of a downward trend in rats since 2020.
“Less than one year ago, we stood in front of City Hall and declared war on the rats, war on the bags, and war on the idea that other cities could get their trash off the streets, but New York couldn’t,” said DSNY Commissioner Tisch in a recent press release. “We’re closer than ever to showing the doubters, the rat-sympathizers, and the trash-lovers just how wrong they were.”
Containerization, a practice common in many large cities around the world, has never been implemented to this degree in NYC. Unfortunately, there are some trade-offs. To compensate for the lost space taken up by trash containers, many parking spaces and bike lanes will be sacrificed. While getting rid of rats is a priority, these infrastructure changes could have negative consequences in a city that partially relies on motorized traffic. However, as long as business and residential properties adapt to the new changes, the city rat population will likely reach record lows, and a pest-free city is always preferable to an unclean one.
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