Friday, June 03, 2005

Trash in the Neighborhood

The trash is ready to hit the fan as the Council and the mayor prepare to do battle over his anemic solution to the city’s garbage disposal problem. What the mayor lacks in substance, however, he more than makes up for with the clever spin of his aides with regards to the siting of transfer stations.

The reality is that the mayor’s plan will see garbage collection and disposal costs rise from $73 a ton to $107 a ton, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office. The IBO does say that with increased recycling and efficiencies, the mayor’s plan might produce some future savings. We frankly don’t think so.

While the mayor’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) talks about increasing recycling there is nothing that suggests that DOS has even an inkling of how to actually increase recycling rates. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, the recycling plan is breathlessly self-described as “groundbreaking” but, if so, the folks at DOS must be digging with plastic spoons. The only prescription we see is the “more education” mantra of those for whom a new idea would truly be unexpected and earth-shattering.


The only truly groundbreaking idea is the introduction of garbage disposers on the commercial end and mandating them on the residential side. The removal of organic, putrescible garbage is the only surefire way to reduce the city’s waste export (up to 28%). At the same time, the reduction of the noisome organics will reduce truck traffic in the neighborhood and the noxious odors will be eliminated as well as the neighborhood-based transfer stations. It is also true that once you remove putrescible waste, recycling what remains becomes feasible and cost-effective.

Siting as a Red Herring

What the mayor has cleverly done, however, is to shift attention away from his feeble plan and towards the controversial 91st transfer station. This sleigh-of-hand, supported by the environmental justice folks, puts the heat on Gifford Miller and deflects awareness from how little there is in the mayor’s plan to actually reduce waste.

Waste reduction is the key. If we can remove putrescible waste from both the commercial and residential sectors we reduce the need for the large and expensive number of transfer stations called for in the SWMP. Those that do remain can easily be converted into material recycling facilities. On the commercial front Babylon Paper Stock, working with local area food markets, is able, through the removal of organic waste, to recycle almost 99% of supermarket garbage. This is the direction the city should be going in.