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New York City gets creative with measures to address its massive rodent problem: 'Rat sightings down nearly 14%'

"We continue to make progress, but we're not stopping there."

"We continue to make progress, but we're not stopping there."

Photo Credit: iStock

Pizza is arguably one of the best things about modern life, but in New York City, the sheer number of people throwing out pizza boxes has caused a huge rat problem. 

Thankfully, the Central Park Conservancy — a nonprofit organization that tends to park maintenance and restoration — came to the rescue by installing a pizza box recycling bin in Central Park, one of the busiest places in the city. 

According to NBC New York, the recycling bin is located in an area near the Great Lawn and was designed specifically for pizza boxes. If the pilot program proves successful at fending off rats in the park, New Yorkers may see more of the bins around Central Park in the future. 

"The traditional circular waste bins are simply not designed to accommodate the boxes, leading to jammed cans that can attract rodents," Kat Brady, a Central Park Conservancy spokesperson, told NBC. "On a warm busy day, the Conservancy can remove more than 100 boxes in this area of the Park alone."

You might wonder if a greasy pizza box with bits of cheese stuck to it can actually be recycled. The American Forest and Paper Association explained that, yes, most paper mills accept these boxes as long as there is no leftover pizza or toppings inside. 

However, the association noted that you'd have to check with your city's recycling program to ensure it accepts pizza boxes — though AFPA claims 82% of Americans live in areas that do. 

Recycling — whether it's pizza boxes, plastic, glass, clothing, or shoes — helps create a cleaner future since it reduces pollution caused by tossing items into landfills, which creates harmful gases that warm the planet. It's also a win for humans and animals, since less pollution equals better air quality and improved health. 

If you live in New York, fewer rats running around the city means you're at a lower risk of contracting a rat-related illness — plus, you can enjoy your pizza in Central Park in peace. 

"With rat sightings down nearly 14% in our city's Rat Mitigation Zones year over year, we continue to make progress, but we're not stopping there," Mayor Eric Adams told NBC.

NYC is also introducing a curbside composting program later this year to keep garbage off its streets and keep rats at bay. A three-month composting pilot program in Queens has already saved nearly 6,500 tons of kitchen and yard waste from landfills, showing promise for the future.

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