Monday, November 14, 2005

Waste Not, Want Not

It now appears likely that the City Council will not be taking up the city's SWMP until next year. It is, however, not too late for the legislature to begin thinking about how to address the issue of waste reduction. Reduction is the key variable that impacts all of the knotty questions concerning waste disposal.

The problem that the Council faced this year was that it waited too long before attempting to devise a credible response to the mayor's plan. Making matters worse, was the complication posed by the 91st Street Transfer Station, smack in the heart of Speaker Miller's district. Gifford couldn't afford to alienate his core constituents so he was forced, to essentially defend a siting model that unfairly burdened low-income communities of color with too many noxious garbage facilities.

The mayor's siting plan, as we have already pointed out, spreads out of the pain but fails to address methods for reducing the pain for all communities. This can only be accomplished by lessening the amount of garbage collected and subsequently exported.

In addition, the actual cost of the mayor's export-landfill based plan is yet to be fully analyzed. The bill for constructing the marine transfer stations will escalate as the delays continue. The Council should be evaluating not only the legalization of commercial food waste disposers (there is no discussion of commercial garbage in the mayor's plan) but also the mandating of the use of residential units as well.

There is also the contentious proposal to open up a transfer station at 59th Street in Manhattan. In the mayor's plan this transfer point would be used to handle all of the boroughs commercial waste, something that will be actively resisted by the private sector as well as by the surrounding neighborhoods.

So here is an opportunity for the new Council. The legacy of failing to adequately respond to the mayor's SWMP should be fresh in everyone's mind. This is one area where the people surrounding the mayor have had an egregious failure of imagination. Maybe the Council will force the mayor to come up with a better plan.