__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

Visualizing Zero Waste Future Scenarios for New York City Bernardo Loureiro Thesis advisor

William Morrish Secondary advisor

Eric Brelsford

Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons School of Design. May 2016


Visualizing Zero Waste: Future Scenarios for New York City Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons School of Design. May 2016

Author Bernardo Loureiro School of Design Strategies May 13, 2016

Certified and accepted by William Morrish Professor of Design and Urban Ecologies School of Design Strategies


Abstract

New York City’s waste system is defined by long-distance waste export and in-city waste concentration. This combination produces high costs, air pollution, GHG emissions, and overburdens a few neighborhoods with most of the city’s waste. In spite of positive changes promoted by city government and organizations over the last two decades, these issues remain. Most stakeholders agree that the current waste system should be improved; yet there is difficulty in agreeing on the necessary changes for this improvement to happen. I believe that this is in part due to widespread difficulty in understanding the waste system and the effects of transforming it. This thesis intervenes in this gap of understanding in two ways: first, by designing a scenario-building tool based on a geographic model of NYC’s waste system; and second, by conducting a scenario-building workshop using this tool with stakeholders. This tool allows to visualize the current waste system and to test future scenarios. It facilitates discussion, advocacy, and policy-making on waste. Using this tool can further stakeholders ability to work cooperatively in order to change this system. By combining my analysis, the use of the model I’ve developed, and the results from the scenario-building workshop, I have made recommendations for changing NYC’s waste system. I believe that addressing privately collected waste, waste disposal, data collection, and incorporating alternative waste handling practices are fundamental in achieving a more equitable zero waste New York City. I also argue for an expanded definition of zero waste that includes the notion of equity and recognizes the social value of existing waste practices in the city.


Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my thesis advisor, William Morrish. Bill, thank you for the support, discussions and for showing me different and more meaningful ways to look at zero waste. I would also like to thank my secondary advisor, Eric Brelsford. Eric, you were essential not only in advising me during this thesis, but also in showing me, through your classes and work, the potential of mapping to address important social issues. Thank you for your constant support throughout this process. I would like to thank the Brazilian Government for providing me with a Science Without Borders Scholarship, which made this thesis and my graduate education in the US possible. Thank you very much to the workshop participants Adam Lubinsky, Amanda Kaminsky, Ana de Luco, Brendan Sexton, Eugene Gadsden, Eadaoin Quinn, and Naama Tamir. You were fundamental in improving this thesis and shining important perspectives on it. I believe that the work you do is essential to change the way we deal with waste in New York City for the better, and I am constantly inspired by it. Thank you as well to Ana Baptista, Evren Uzer, Lize Mogel, Brett Mons, Louise Bruce, and Samantha MacBride for the informative discussions about waste and mapping. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend the last two years among inspiring practitioners at the New School in the Design and Urban Ecologies and Theories of Urban Practice programs. A special thank you to my comrades in waste and studio pals Darcy Bender, Silvia Xavier and Tamara Streefland. Your input, your fascinating ideas, and our endless talks on waste have guided me through this journey. Thank you as well to Gamar Markarian and Zanny Venner, for helping propel what would eventually become my thesis work. And thank you to Walter, for talking with me about anything else not related to my thesis and helping me keep my mental sanity. I would also like to thank my family and friends for their support throughout this process. Thank you for the conversations, words of encouragement, and for not letting me forget the interesting and


exciting things about this work. Finally, I would like to thank Leila Santiago. Leila, thank you for your endless support, and for believing in me and in my work.


Contents Introduction

13

Chapter 1: Solid Waste in New York City: A System of Growing Complexity 1.1. Brief History of NYC’s Waste System 1.1.1. The Initial Issue: Collection 1.1.2. The Modern Issue: Disposal 1.1.3. Dependence on the Private Sector: Towards the Current System 1.2. The Current Waste System 1.2.1. Definition 1.2.2. Boundaries 1.2.3. Issues Chapter 2: Plans and Alternatives: Changing the Current System 2.1. Recent Plans and Proposals 2.1.1. Solid Waste Management Plan (2006) 2.1.2. PlaNYC (2007) 2.1.3. OneNYC (2015) 2.2. Alternatives 2.2.1. Community Composting 2.2.2. Canning 2.3. We Need a Better Way to Visualize This System

17 17 19 21 40 40 42 50

59 59 61 62 71 72 74 76

Chapter 3: Visualizing the Waste System and its Future 3.1. Working System Definition 3.1.1. Data and Assumptions 3.1.2. Variables and Metrics 3.2. Building scenarios 3.2.1. The Current System 3.2.2. Alternative Scenarios 3.3. Visioning Workshop 3.4. Conclusion

87 88 106 106 106 124 148 210

Chapter 4: Challenges and Recommendations 4.1. Privately-Collected Waste 4.2. Disposal 4.3. Data Collection Practices 4.4. Incorporating Alternatives 4.5. Conclusion: Redefining Zero Waste

215 218 220 221 224

Bibliography

227

Image Credits

235

Glossary

237


13

Introduction

New York City has a waste system that is complex, financially expensive, environmentally damaging, and socially unequal. Since 2002, the city has no facility for waste disposal within its boundaries. As a result, most of its waste is transported on trucks to other states, sometimes more than 500 miles away. This system produces great financial and environmental costs, and is based on a waste infrastructure that is unequally distributed and that affects communities unequally. To allow for long-distance waste export, NYC relies on in-city consolidation facilities called waste transfer stations. Most of these facilities are concentrated in a few outer-borough neighborhoods. As a consequence, these neighborhoods share a disproportionate amount the city’s waste and of its impacts. Therefore, the waste system is highly extensive in its disposal outside of the city, and simultaneously highly concentrated within the city. NYC’s waste system is also divided between public and private actors, adding to its logistical complexity. The city government only collects waste from residences and public institutions, while private companies collect waste from businesses. Private companies also dispose of all of NYC’s waste, privately and publicly collected. This split has hampered the city government’s ability to measure and regulate the private waste system, thus affecting its capacity to address many of its issues. In the last two decades, several administrations have attempted to address these issues through different plans and proposals. The most recent is the OneNYC plan of 2015, which set the goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. Also in the past two decades, several non-governmental organizations have published reports analyzing and making recommendations for the same issues. Simultaneously, organizations, communities, and individuals have established parallel initiatives that address some of the issues of NYC’s waste system. These initiatives include community composting and canning, for example. Some of these initiatives have been supported by the city, while others been opposed by it. In spite of considerable positive changes to NYC’s waste system


14

Introduction

15

over the last two decades, the main financial, environmental, and social issues remain. In the current discussions about the future of NYC’s waste system, most stakeholders agree that the current system requires improvement. These stakeholders include community organizations, the city government, advocates, and some private actors. Although stakeholders may agree on outcomes for a better waste system, there is widespread difficulty in understanding this complex system, especially in understanding how specific changes to it will affect the issues presented above. I have evidenced this difficulty through interviews with stakeholders; observation of city council meetings; and by comparing a multitude of reports, studies, and plans that have been published over the past two decades. I believe that facilitating greater understanding of the waste system as well as the ability to envision different scenarios for its future could further stakeholders ability to work cooperatively in order to change it. This thesis intervenes in this gap of understanding in two ways: first, by designing a scenario-building tool for NYC’s waste system, based on a geographic model of it; and second, by conducting a scenario-building workshop using this tool with stakeholders. The purpose of this tool is to allow for visualizing the current waste system and envisioning future scenarios. I believe using a geographic model is important to understand waste systems because waste is moved several times throughout its life-cycle, and many environmental and social issues result from its transport; and because issues and conflicts result from the siting of waste infrastructure, such as transfer stations, landfills, and incinerators. This tool that I have designed is not intended to provide simple answers to the current challenges of managing waste in NYC. Instead, it is meant to facilitate discussion, advocacy, and policy-making on waste. For this reason, as part of this thesis I’ve also conducted a scenario-building workshop, using this tool with a variety of stakeholders. These stakeholders were involved in discussions about waste and came from different areas and

backgrounds, such as not-for-profits, city government, planning professionals, and small business owners. The main point of the workshop was to build desirable future scenarios and to discuss ways of achieving them. Understanding NYC’s waste system and being able to envision different futures is the first necessary step in the direction to change it. By combining my analysis, the use of the tool I have designed, the results from the scenario-building workshop, and interviews with stakeholders, I have made some recommendations for NYC’s waste system. These recommendations address the need to improve the private waste system; to look for alternatives in waste disposal; to improve data collection practices on waste; and to incorporate alternatives to the mainstream waste system, such as community composting and canning. Structure This thesis is divided into four chapters. In the first chapter I present an overview of the historical conditions that have produced NYC’s current waste system. I then define the current waste system and describe some of its financial, environmental, and social issues. In the second chapter I discuss city plans from the last two decades that address these issues, calling attention to their impacts and limitations. I also discuss initiatives such as community composting and canning, and their potential as alternatives to the current system. I conclude the chapter by describing the importance of facilitating the understanding of this system in order to change it. In the third chapter I describe the scenario-building tool that I’ve designed for this thesis and the insights it has provided on the current waste system. I then describe the scenario-building workshop held with stakeholders and its results. In the final chapter I make recommendations for NYC’s waste under the topics of private waste, disposal, data collection, and alternative waste systems. I conclude by arguing for an expanded definition of zero waste that includes the notion of equity, as well as recognizes the social value of existing alternative waste practices in New York City.


17

1. Solid Waste in New York City: A System of Growing Complexity

The first chapter of this thesis is about the origins of New York City’s waste system. In the first section I briefly analyze the history of this system, considering key junctures in city policy, environmental policy, waste management, and city politics that have led to the current system. In the second section I describe NYC’s current waste system, define its practices and scale, and analyze its main issues. 1.1. Brief History of NYC’s Waste System New York City has for a long time been shaped by waste. Much of its shoreline has been literally shaped by it, i.e. built on landfills of waste and rubble.1 Discussions around waste – how to collect it and how to dispose of it – have been central to the city’s politics, public health, environmental justice and community activism. And as exemplified by the Solid Waste Management Plan of 2006, PlanNYC of 2007, and the OneNYC Plan of 2015, these discussions are still very much present in the city’s politics. In this section I will describe some of the historical factors that have led to NYC’s current waste system, including its infrastructure, actors, policies, and practices. I’ve divided this history in three periods, defined by different challenges. The first period (1600s–1800s) is defined by the challenge of waste collection, and ends with the creation of the Department of Street Cleaning and the appointment of Colonel Waring as its head. The second period (1900s–2001) is characterized by difficulties in securing sites for waste disposal. Its end is marked by the closure of Fresh Kills landfill and the shift to long-distance waste export. The final period (2001–today) is defined by challenges of long-distance waste export, dependence on the private sector, and growing concerns over the sustainability of NYC’s waste system. 1.1.1. The Initial Issue: Collection Since the 1620s, when a colonial settlement in the southern 1 Steinberg, Gotham Unbound; Daniel C. Walsh, “Reconnaissance Mapping of Landfills in New York City.”


18

1. Solid Waste In New York City

19

end of Manhattan was established, settlers have been confronted with the necessity of dealing with their waste. The first persons who were responsible for dealing with the city’s waste were slaves. Slaves not only disposed of it, but also built infrastructure such as canals which citizens illegally used to dump garbage and excrement. In the late 1600s, the responsibility of waste collection and disposal was given to a guild of carters. This guild agreed to take garbage, a material that had little economic value, in exchange for a cityprovided monopoly on freight transportation.2 Throughout the 1600s, the disposal of garbage and the cleanliness of the streets were of constant concern to the local government, as evidenced by a series of laws enacted to regulate both of these aspects of sanitation.3 But it was from the 1700s onwards that waste and sanitation would have a more prominent role in the city’s policies. This was prompted by a series of diseases and epidemics caused by unsanitary conditions.4 The beginning of New York’s modern waste system can be traced to the creation of the Department of Street Cleaning in 1881, and to the appointment of Colonel George E. Warring Jr. as its head in 1895. Until then, citizens had continuously suffered with streets filled with ashes, manure, offal, and other types of garbage. To counter this problem, Colonel Warring established a military-style hierarchy in the Department of Street Cleaning; ordered its employees to wear a white uniform, to associate them with cleanliness; built infrastructure such as stables and piers; and renegotiated contracts with boat companies to dump the collected garbage in the ocean. The Department of Street Cleaning was the predecessor to the present-day Department of Sanitation of New York (DSNY). The difficulties of collecting waste were met by Warring with efficiency, and New York streets were never again as dirty as they had been before. But the challenge that the city faced for most of the 20th century – and in a sense still is facing – was how to dispose

of its waste. Warring had committed to find an alternative to ocean dumping, which he perceived as a problematic disposal strategy; yet he was not able to offer any alternatives during his time in office.5 The political, economical, social, and environmental conflicts over the main forms of disposal – ocean dumping, incineration, and landfilling, especially the latter two – would define New York’s waste system from the 20th century on.

2 Nagle, Picking Up, 90. 3 Ibid., 90–91. 4 Miller, “Fat of the Land,” 77.

1.1.2. The Modern Issue: Disposal In the first half of the 20th century, New York City had a wide array of options for disposing of its waste. These included ocean dumping (which though illegal since 1888, was practiced intermittently until 1934); landfilling of rivers to expand shorelines and islands; “waste reduction,” a process in which glycerin, grease, and fertilizers were produced from food and animal waste; and waste incineration. A mix of these disposal strategies was used in this period by the city. But in the second half of the century these would increasingly converge to a single option, which was disposal at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. In the late 1950s, New York City’s Department of Sanitation, which had until then collected all waste in the city, stopped collecting from businesses, and continued to collect only from residences and public institutions. This created a private market for waste collection that would service businesses in the city.6 And although the collection was now divided between the public and private sectors, private waste collectors (commonly known in NYC as carters) continued to use Department of Sanitation landfills for disposal in the city, including Fresh Kills landfill.7 In the 1960s and 1970s, a series of federal environmental regulations were created regarding solid waste disposal. These 5 Nagle, Picking Up, 111. 6 Private waste collection in NYC was notoriously dominated by Mafia, providing poor service at a steep price, until the 1990s. Rogers, Gone Tomorrow, 183–184. 7 City of New York Office of the Comptroller, “No Room To Move: New York City’s Impending Solid Waste Crisis,” 16.


20

1. Solid Waste In New York City

21

included the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965, the Resource Recovery Act of 1970, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976. With the enforcement of these regulations in 1980 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), several landfills, which then became termed open dumps, were closed. In one estimate there were almost 50% less active landfills in 1980 compared to 1976. The shortage of disposal sites resulted in what was called the “garbage crisis of the 1980s”.8 To substitute open dumps, RCRA mandated the construction of sanitary landfills. Sanitary landfills are required to have specific linings as well as other construction requirements to reduce risks of water contamination. Because sanitary landfills require more initial capital investment due to these technical requirements, many municipalities could not afford them. Private waste management companies saw this as an opportunity and built large regional landfills that could take waste from several municipalities and across state lines.9 One consequence of this was “the privatization of MSWM [municipal solid waste management] in the hands of a small number of companies with great influence on this essential public service.”10 In New York City, these more stringent federal controls on landfills, as well as on smaller incinerators due to air pollution, meant a dwindling number of alternatives for the disposal of the city’s waste. In addition, the postwar rise of mass consumption accelerated the growth of the municipal waste stream and the exhaustion of landfill capacity.11 Therefore, from the 1970s on, the publicly-owned Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island increasingly became the sole alternative for solid waste disposal in New York City. In response to the exhaustion of in-city landfill capacity, the city considered building a large waste incinerator in the Brooklyn Navy

Yard to handle most of the city’s waste. The Navy Yard site was first considered for an incinerator during Mayor Lindsey’s term in the early 1970s, and the proposal continued to be supported by the following Mayors Koch and Dinkins, well into the 1990s. However, the project was met with opposition from environmentalists, environmental justice and community activists, as well as faced financial difficulties, thus resulting in its eventual abandonment in the mid-1990s.12

8 Louis, “A Historical Context of Municipal Solid Waste Management in the United States,” 317. 9 Krevitz, “Not in My Landfill,” 1. 10 Louis, “A Historical Context of Municipal Solid Waste Management in the United States,” 318; Rogers, Gone Tomorrow, 184–185. 11 Gandy, Concrete and Clay, 201.

1.1.3. Dependence on the Private Sector: Towards the Current System In 1989, the city was facing complications in building the Navy Yard incinerator project as well as the exhaustion of capacity at Fresh Kills landfill. In response to this, DSNY decided to raise disposal fees at Fresh Kills for private carters. At the time, DSNY received more privately collected then publicly collected waste at its landfills.13 Therefore, fees were raised to discourage commercial disposal and preserve in-city landfill capacity. As a consequence of this surge in prices, private carters quickly established an alternative system to dispose of commercial waste. They did so by building several ad-hoc facilities in the city called waste transfer stations. At these facilities, carters unloaded commercial waste from collection trucks and consolidated it into larger trucks for long-distance export, destined to landfills cheaper than the city’s.14 The shift from using the city-owned Fresh Kills landfill to using this network of transfer stations and long-distance export occurred very quickly in the private waste industry. As a consequence, between 1988 and 1989 commercial waste disposed at landfills in New York City dropped by almost 100%.15 12 Ibid., 209–210. 13 City of New York Office of the Comptroller, “No Room To Move: New York City’s Impending Solid Waste Crisis,” 16. 14 By the 1990s time, much of the landfills in the US were already owned by a small number of large private companies, who came to dominate the market through buying and consolidating smaller companies. Rogers, Gone Tomorrow, 184. 15 City of New York Office of the Comptroller, “No Room To Move: New


22

1. Solid Waste In New York City

23

This ad hoc construction of transfer stations resulted in their concentration in a few communities. These were mostly industrially zoned, waterfront communities, such as Williamsburg-Greenpoint in North Brooklyn and Hunts Point in the South Bronx, both of which were low-income communities of color. The environmental justice advocate Eddie Bautista describes this period: “You had enormous construction and demolition debris transfer stations that would be spewing toxic construction dust. You could go on a building in Williamsburg and look and see a half-mile away a plume of dust hanging over and you knew that was the transfer station.”16 In 1990, prompted by concerns regarding the siting of transfer stations in residential areas, as well as the concentration of these transfer stations in certain neighborhoods, the City Council enacted Local Law No. 40, giving DSNY regulatory authority over private transfer stations. DSNY promulgated rules in 1991 and 1994 regarding siting of transfer stations. But in 1997, the Neighborhoods Against Garbage (NAG), a community organization of North Brooklyn, challenged DSNY in court. NAG argued that the rules were not sufficient to protect areas of the city such as North Brooklyn from the concentration of transfer stations. In response, the Supreme Court of New York decided that the 1991 and 1994 regulations were insufficient in addressing the clustering of transfer stations in certain neighborhoods, thus requiring new rules to be adopted.17 New rules were promulgated in 1998, but were challenged again in 1999 by a group of community organizations, leading to a long process of dispute that was only resolved with the new regulations of 2003-2004.18

Despite this long judicial process, in 1997 transfer stations were already concentrated in a few neighborhoods. By then, 27% of the city’s of private transfer stations were located in North Brooklyn.19 Today, Community District 1 in North Brooklyn receives about 25% of all of the city’s waste by tonnage. Therefore, the current geographic concentration of waste transfer stations in certain neighborhoods was already established by the late 1990s, and the series of regulations enacted were not able to reverse this trend. In May of 1996, Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki announced that they would close Fresh Kills landfill on December 31, 2000. This was despite the fact that, three months earlier, the Giuliani administration had requested a 20-year landfilling permit at Fresh Kills, alleging that there was no other feasible alternative for the disposal of NYC’s waste.20 In the years between the announcement and the closure of Fresh Kills, the city began exporting its residential waste through contracts with private companies. In doing so, the city used the same network of transfer stations that private carters had created in the late 1980s.21 This was the first time since the 1930s when New York had disposed of publicly collected waste outside of the city.22 With the announcement that Fresh Kills landfill would be closed, community organizations such as NAG became increasingly concerned about the amount of residential waste that would soon flow through the transfer stations in their neighborhoods. This waste would be delivered in addition to the large volumes of commercial waste that these neighborhoods already received.23 After the closure of Fresh Kills in 2001, the city began to fully rely on the transfer stations built by private carters. After collecting residential and institutional trash, DSNY would either unload it at transfer stations, or would transport it directly to incinerators in New Jersey and Long Island. From the transfer stations, garbage

York City’s Impending Solid Waste Crisis,” 16. 16 Baruch College Center For Nonprofit Strategy and Management, “Solid Waste Management And Environmental Justice: Building And Sustaining Coalitions,” 5. 17 New York Supreme Court, “In Re Application Of Neighbors Against Garbage V Doherty.” 18 City of New York, “Rules of the City of New York, Section 4-38: Interim Siting Restrictions for New or Expanded Putrescible Solid Waste Transfer Stations”; New York Supreme Court, “Matter of Jamaica Recycling Corp. v City of New York.”

19 Rohde, “A Victory, Perhaps Brief, On Garbage.” 20 Miller, “Fat of the Land,” 12. 21 Columbia University’s Earth Institute et al., “Life After Fresh Kills: Moving Beyond New York City’s Current Waste Management Plan,” 3. 22 Gandy, Concrete and Clay, 211. 23 Rohde, “A Victory, Perhaps Brief, On Garbage.”


24

1. Solid Waste In New York City

25

The Department of Street Cleaning “White Wings� being escorted by police during a strike. NY. 1911.


26

1. Solid Waste In New York City

Waste dumping in Jamaica Bay, Queens, NY. 1973. Part of US EPA’s Documerica series.

27


28

1. Solid Waste In New York City

Waste incinerator in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn, NY. 1973. Part of US EPA’s Documerica series.

29


30

1. Solid Waste In New York City

Golf course built on a sanitary landfill in Jackson, Miss. 1972. Part of US EPA’s Documerica series. The US EPA wanted to demonstrate the benefits of sanitary landfills versus open dumps.

31


32

1. Solid Waste In New York City

Garbage scows being unloaded at Fresh Kills landfill, Staten Island, NY. 1973.

33

Final shipment of garbage to Fresh Kills. March 23, 2001.


34

1. Solid Waste In New York City

Tipping floor at Sims Sunset Park, Brooklyn. 2015. This facility processes virtually all residential recyclables in NYC.

35

The facility’s sorting line. It separates recyclables into different categories for sale in the recycling market.


36

1. Solid Waste In New York City

Collection trucks waiting to unload at Sims after days of accumulated recyclables because of snow. 2015.

37

The facility’s truck scale provides data automatically to DSNY’s database.


38

1. Solid Waste In New York City

Seneca Meadows Landfill, NY. In 2014, this landfill received 2 million tons of waste, ~10% of which was from NYC.

39


40

1. Solid Waste In New York City

41

was then trucked to private landfills and incinerators outside of the city, including ones in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In the years following the closure of Fresh Kills and with the increased use of private transfer stations for out-of-city export, the city began to recognize the financial, environmental, and social impacts caused by this new disposal strategy. The majority of waste was and still is exported on long-haul trucks. This generates significant diesel emissions and disproportionally impacts communities living near transfer stations and along truck routes. In addition, the exhaustion of capacity at nearby landfills meant increased reliance on more distant ones, which has continuously increased disposal costs for the city. Since the early 2000s, the city has attempted to deal with these issues, and has produced a series of plans to address them. Although these plans have had significant successes over the years, the main financial, environmental and social impacts of the waste system remain.

of my research, I have focused on materials that are discarded in New York City at residences, public institutions, and businesses. After these materials have been discarded in NYC, they often go through long and complex journeys before reaching their final destination. These journeys can generally be framed in the following steps: discarding, collection, consolidation, and disposal. Discarding is done at residences, institutions and businesses in the city. Collection is done by public or private actors, from within or outside the city, generally on rear-loader collection trucks. During consolidation, recyclable material is usually taken to a recyclables handling facility. There it is separated into different categories and then sold in the recycling market. It is then transported to recycling facilities, which can be local, national, or international. Material not destined for recycling is taken first to transfer stations. In these facilities, it is loaded into larger trucks, trains, or barges, and transported to landfills or incinerators outside of the city. The flow of waste through these several steps from collection to disposal is called a “waste stream.” New York City’s waste system is generally divided into three different waste streams: residential and institutional; commercial; and construction and demolition (C&D). This division is not the only one possible, but is widely used by city agencies and waste management professionals because it reflects different volumes, handling, composition, and regulations. In this thesis I mostly utilize this categorization. Where appropriate I use a dual-stream categorization, divided between publicly collected (residential and institutional) and privately collected (commercial and C&D). These three waste streams add to approximately 13 million tons of waste generated in NYC per year. C&D is the largest waste stream with 6 million tons per year, followed by commercial at 4 million and residential and institutional at 3 million tons per year. These different waste streams also have different diversion rates, and different rates of landfilling and incineration. It is important to note that NYC’s waste system is divided

1.2. The Current Waste System New York City’s waste system has emerged as a complex product of the historical conditions described in the previous section. In this section, I begin by defining NYC’s waste system, its practices of discarding, collection, consolidation, and disposal. I then describe the geographic boundaries and extension of NYC’s waste system. Finally, I analyze the current issues created by the city’s waste system through the lenses of equity, financial, and environmental impacts. 1.2.1. Definition A waste system is a collection of infrastructure, practices and flows of materials. Its objective is to handle what we construe as waste. Waste is not a fixed category – instead it is a social and cultural construct.24 Therefore, one of the issues that are embedded in defining a waste system is defining waste itself. For the purposes 24 Strasser, Waste and Want; Thompson, Rubbish Theory; Zimring, Cash For Your Trash.


42

1. Solid Waste In New York City

43

between public and private actors. The city only collects waste from residences and institutions, while private companies operate all other collection in the city, as well as virtually all disposal. Actors in this system include the Department of Sanitation and private businesses, from small businesses in waste collection to vertically integrated, multi-billion dollar businesses such as Waste Management Inc. To draw a comprehensive picture of NYC’s waste system, we must also include other actors such as organizations doing organics composting within the city; individuals and organizations collecting cans, bottles, and other types of recyclable materials; community gardens that do composting; and many other smaller actors. While these practices of waste handling would not traditionally be considered under the label of “waste management”, I believe it is important to consider them in the NYC context, where they can function as alternatives to the current mainstream waste system.

Law requires private businesses in New York City to contract with private haulers for waste collection.26 The city’s Business Integrity Commission (BIC) must approve and license these private haulers. Most of BIC’s approved haulers are located in New York City, yet many are located outside of the city, in New Jersey and New York states. Therefore, private businesses in NYC may have their waste collected by companies from outside the city.

1.2.2. Boundaries One of the defining characteristics of New York City’s waste system are the long and complex flows of its waste while on its journey to other places. These flows can be local, regional, or global, and they reshape the city’s “ecological frontier.” This prompts questions of environmental justice, impacts, and ecological change in places distant form the city.25 Moreover, NYC’s ecological frontier is dynamic, being constantly altered by changes in global trade, recycling markets, and city contracts with waste management companies. In this section I define some of these typical waste flows and their geographic scales in an attempt to delineate the ecological boundaries of NYC’s waste. Collection New York City’s public waste collection is defined by the city’s municipal boundaries. DSNY is responsible from collecting waste generated by residences and public institutions, such as schools and public agencies, only within the limits of the city. 25 Gandy, Concrete and Clay, 221.

Consolidation In the consolidation step, both publicly and privately collected waste may be consolidated in transfer stations inside or outside of NYC. For example, as of February 2016, DSNY was delivering residential waste at transfer stations in Jersey City, NJ; Fairview, NJ; and Yonkers, NY, though most of the transfer stations used by the agency are located in NYC.27 Private haulers also use transfer stations inside and outside of New York City, though there is little data on what is the proportion between in-city and out-of-city transfer stations used. This is partly due to the fact that there is more publicly accessible data on waste transfer stations in the New York State than in New Jersey. Disposal and Recycling The disposal and recycling of NYC’s waste is done almost entirely outside of the city. Exceptions to this are composting and recycling facilities located in the city, such as the Pratt Industries recycled paper mill on Staten Island; the DSNY Compost Facility on Staten Island; and the community composting initiatives in the city. There are no landfills or incinerators located within the city of New York. Publicly collected waste from most of Manhattan is transported to the Covanta incinerator in Newark, New Jersey on DSNY’s collection trucks. The rest of publicly collected waste is taken first to transfer stations in NYC, and then sent out of the 26 City of New York, Rules of the City of New York, Section 16-116: Removal Of Commercial Waste; Posting Of Sign, Registration Number. 27 “DSNY’s Refuse and Recycling Disposal Networks.”


44

1. Solid Waste In New York City

45

city on rail, barges, or semi-trailer trucks. Most of it is shipped to landfills and incinerators in other cities and states, sometimes as far as 500 miles away. Privately collected waste also stops first at transfer stations for consolidation, before being exported on semitrailer trucks to distant landfills and incinerators. It is difficult to map the landfills and incinerators used to dispose of NYC’s waste for a few reasons. Transfer stations are required to file annual reports with the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). These reports contain the tonnages and types of waste received month-by-month, and the yearly tonnages and destinations of exported waste. Reports are paper-based, and many are filled by hand, which makes transcription difficult and time-consuming. In addition, many of the reports that I have analyzed are incomplete, especially with regard to the destinations of exported waste. For my research I have transcribed these reports and used their data whenever available. The second difficulty in mapping disposal facilities relates to the lack of data on the facilities themselves. Because they are located in several different states, these facilities are subject to different regulatory agencies. These agencies in turn have different reporting requirements and different policies regarding the publication of their data. Thus it was necessary to compile this data from multiple sources in order to map the facilities used to dispose of NYC’s waste. As for recyclable material, it is even more difficult to map its flows and destinations. DSNY contracts all of its recycling with Sims Metal Management, a private company which operates a materials recovery facility (MRF) in the Sunset Park, Brooklyn. After NYC’s residential and institutional recyclables are sorted at this facility, they are then sold in the recycling market, nationally or internationally. Due to the volatility of the recycling market, it is difficult to determine where exactly these materials are then taken for actual recycling. Following an arrangement with the city of New York, Sims seeks to send most of its recyclables to domestic and regional facilities. However, at least a portion of recyclables ends up being

sent to facilities in other countries. This includes carton and some types of plastic, such as plastic film and bags, and some types of rigid plastics. As for privately collected recyclables, it is even more difficult to determine where they are sent for recycling. First, recyclables may be taken to one of many handling facilities in NYC, which are operated by different companies. This makes accounting more difficult than for publicly collected recyclables, which are all handled by a single company. Second, although source-separating recyclables is mandated for businesses due to a city regulation, it is many times not done and not enforced.28 Therefore many recyclable materials from businesses end up in landfills and incinerators every year. Cardboard and paper are one of the few exceptions to this, comprising about 50% of all material diverted from the commercial waste stream, while metal, glass, and plastic have much lower diversion rates.29 Due to its high market value, many private waste collectors require businesses to source-separate cardboard and paper.30 After being collected by private haulers and delivered at recyclables handling facilities, cardboard and paper are bundled and sold to brokers. Brokers will usually ship these materials to Asia for recycling, mostly to China and India. Some rigid plastics and plastic film, including plastic bags are also usually shipped to Asia.31 However, these recyclables are part of a global market and as such are subject to changes and fluctuations. In 2015, a low in oil prices and a strong US dollar, together with increased environmental regulation in China caused a drop in the export of plastics for recycling.32 These changes make it difficult to keep track 28 Emma Withford, “NYC Commercial Sanitation Workers Say There’s ‘Virtually No Recycling.’” 29 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report,” 40. 30 Ibid., 16. 31 According to an interview with an industry professional, as of 2015 it was cheaper to send plastic bags to China, where they were hand sorted and then recycled, than to landfill them in the US. 32 Smith, “How The Price Of Oil Caused A Downturn In The Recycling Business.”


NYC’s wastestreams after collection by tonnage and disposal.

Flows of NYC’s wastestreams.


Refuse; paper; metal, glass and plastic (MGP); organics (in some areas) Requirement by law varies depending on business type; in practice mostly paper and refuse. Not required by law; practice is not widespread

~3 million

~4 million

~6 million

Residential and institutional

Commercial

Construction and demolition (C&D)

DSNY BIC BIC

Commercial Construction and demolition

Collection

Regulation Residential and institutional

Wastestream

Table 1.2: NYC’s Wastestreams – Regulation

Source-separation

Tons per year

Wastestream

Table 1.1: NYC’s Wastestreams

Private (1,000+ private waste haulers)

Private (250+ private waste haulers)

Public (DSNY)

Collection

NYSDEC

DSNY; NYSDEC

DSNY; NYSDEC

Consolidation

Not required

Mandatory

Mandatory

Recycling

NYSDEC

NYSDEC

NYSDEC

Disposal

Transfer stations; C&D processors

Transfer stations; Recyclables handling facilities

Transfer stations; Recyclables handling facilities

Consolidation

Private

Private

Private

Disposal


50

1. Solid Waste In New York City

of where recyclable material is being sent. 1.2.3. Issues Several studies have documented the impacts of waste collection and disposal in New York City. Based on these studies and on my research, I have classified the impacts under three main lenses: equity, financial, and environmental. In this section I will summarize these issues in light of NYC’s current waste system. Equity New York City’s waste system is highly inequitable in the distribution of its impacts within the city. This is mostly due to the concentration of waste infrastructure such as transfer stations in certain neighborhoods. The neighborhoods that are most burdened with transfer stations in the city are located in Community Districts 1 and 2 in the Bronx; 1 in Brooklyn; 7 and 12 in Queens; and 2 in Staten Island. Together, waste facilities located in these Community Districts handle 75% of all the city’s waste. Transfer stations generate problems such as odor, noise, and excessive truck traffic, which causes air pollution and congestion. A study by NYU Wagner has found elevated levels of air pollution and asthma rates in the South Bronx, an area that receives approximately 21% of all citywide waste in its transfer stations.33 In the same area, specifically in the neighborhood of Hunts Point, a DSNYcommissioned study determined that 29% of the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) measured was generated by transfer stations.34 In addition, the neighborhoods that receive no waste are sometimes among its highest generators in the city, especially of commercial waste. This is true for most of the Community Districts in Manhattan, where there is high concentration of businesses and residents but almost no transfer stations.35 33 ICS New York University, “South Bronx Environmental Health and Policy Study.” 34 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “Commercial Waste Management Study, Vol.1: Private Transfer Station Evaluations.” 35 For estimations of commercial waste generated by borough see City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste

51

Transfer stations receiving privately collected waste are more numerous in the city than the ones receiving waste only from DSNY. The concentration of privately collected waste is even more problematic than of publicly collected waste for a series of reasons. First, private waste collection trucks have routes that are more inefficient than the city’s collection trucks. Inefficient routes mean more miles travelled and consequently more pollution, noise and congestion. According to one study, private trucks are 5 times more inefficient in terms of miles travelled per ton of waste collected.36 The inefficiency of private collection routes is a product in part of their client distribution in the city. Because private waste haulers are allowed to have collection contracts with businesses anywhere in the city, they might have clients in Staten Island and South Brooklyn, while operating from the Bronx and using a transfer station in East New York, for example. Interviews with private truck drivers have evidenced collection routes with more than 500 stops and more than 70 miles long.37 Because of this, some Community Districts might have an average of only 18 customers per waste hauler, and sometimes a single street block might have more than 10 different haulers servicing its businesses.38 A second issue is that private collection trucks are generally older and thus more polluting than DSNY’s trucks. A study has shown that only 10% of the more than 4,000 private collection trucks on NYC’s roads meet EPA emission standards. These trucks are on average more than 14 years old, and 25% of them are 20 years or older.39 Another issue is that most commercial trucks operate at night, in order to avoid congestion.40 This means disturbing Study and Analysis Summary Report,” 37. 36 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “How to Increase Good Jobs, Recycling, and Justice in the Commercial Waste Industry,” 6; City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report,” 24, presents similar figures. 37 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “Dirty Wasteful & Unsustainable.” 38 Ibid., 12; City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report,” 30. 39 M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC, “New York City Commercial Refuse Truck Age-out Analysis.” 40 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “Dirty Wasteful & Unsustainable.”


52

1. Solid Waste In New York City

53

residential neighborhoods around transfer stations and along truck routes, six nights a week. The communities in neighborhoods overburdened by waste facilities are frequently poor communities and communities of color.41 Much of the city’s waste infrastructure is sited on former or current industrial land, where communities with less access to financial resources have a greater probability of living nearby due to historically lower land values. It is also important to take into consideration the equity impacts of NYC’s waste being exported to other cities and states. These impacts extend hundreds of miles to other cities in the New York state, as well as states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio. In these locations landfills, incinerators and other transfer stations receive almost all of NYC’s waste. The geographer Matthew Gandy has pointed out how parts of the South and of the East Coast rustbelt have increasingly become NYC’s “environmental sink.”42 Also, recyclables from NYC are often shipped to countries in Asia for recycling, particularly India and China. This includes paper, e-waste, and some plastics. Thus, in order to fully understand the impacts of NYC’s waste in terms of equity, it is necessary to consider its impacts far outside the city’s boundaries. This is particularly important when devising alternatives to NYC’s current waste system, so that these will not simply displace issues to the backyards of other communities.

stable over the last few years, export costs have continuously increased in the same period. From 2014 to 2016, DSNY’s expenditures with waste export have increased by about 15% every year, with an expected cost of almost 400 million dollars for waste export in FY 2016.44 The increase in waste export costs is related to exhaustion of landfill capacity near NYC, leading to export to facilities that are further away from the city.45 DSNY’s contracts for municipal waste export are among the most expensive contracts of all city agencies. DSNY currently has 31 contracts for waste export, at a total of more than $8.19 billion. Of these contracts, five are 20-year agreements, and the rest are 4-year agreements or shorter.46 As of 2016, the third most expensive contract of all city agencies was between DSNY and Covanta LLC, a waste management company and owner of several incineration facilities, at a cost of $2.88 billion for waste export. In addition, two DSNY contracts with Waste Management of NY LLC were among the top 10 most expensive city contracts, at $1.12 and $1.09 billion, also for waste export. In fact, Waste Management is the second prime vendor to the City of New York, with a total of 21 contracts adding to $3.61 billion; the fourth prime vendor is Covanta LLC. Some studies have attempted to compare DSNY’s collection costs with private collection costs, arguing that the private system is more cost-effective.47 These studies however, have failed to consider a number of factors in their assessment, such as the quality and reliability of the collection service provided; the efficiency of truck routes; emissions from collection and export; recyclables capture rates; and the benefits and compensation provided to the workers in relation to their workplace hazards. In all of these aspects, DSNY’s

Financial The Department of Sanitation has the seventh largest budget of all New York City agencies, at a total of roughly $1.5 billion.43 DSNY’s biggest expense is collection, at about 45% of its total budget, followed by waste export at 24% of its budget. Although collection costs for DSNY have generally remained 41 Baruch College Center For Nonprofit Strategy and Management, “Solid Waste Management And Environmental Justice: Building And Sustaining Coalitions,” 6. 42 Gandy, Concrete and Clay, 211. 43 Office of Management and Budget, “NYC Open Data Portal: Expense All Funds.”

44 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “Report on the Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget and the Fiscal 2015 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report.” 45 City of New York Office of the Comptroller, “No Room To Move: New York City’s Impending Solid Waste Crisis,” 26. 46 New York City Comptroller, “Checkbook NYC.” 47 Citizens Budget Comission, “12 Things New Yorkers Should Know About Their Garbage.”


54

1. Solid Waste In New York City

55

collection service is superior to most of the private collection provided in NYC.48 Studies have also pointed out the high costs that businesses pay for waste collection in the city, especially when considering the low quality of the service provided.49 These issues are more likely to affect small businesses that have less financial leverage than larger ones. Small businesses are usually not provided with contracts by their waste haulers, and are often faced with fees that are not transparent. In addition, businesses receive no financial incentive from collectors to recycle or reduce the amount of waste they generate as they are generally charged based on a flat fee. This contributes to low recycling rates among small businesses. Another financial issue with NYC’s waste system is the fact that the system produces few jobs, considering its current low diversion rates for recyclables and organic material. Studies have shown that composting can create 5 times more jobs per ton than landfilling or incineration, and that recyclables sorting can create 20 times more jobs per ton.50 If New York City maximized its diversion rates for recyclables and organics, this could mean the creation of more than 1,000 composting jobs and more than 3,000 recycling jobs. The City of New York also obtains revenue from recycling. The city has a contract with Sims, the company responsible for sorting and selling all DSNY-collected recyclables, where they share the profits from the sale of these recyclables. Also, compost produced from city organics can be sold for revenue. Currently, some local composting initiatives already sell their compost, such as Big Reuse in Queens. Thus, increased diversion rates of recyclables and organics could generate extra revenue for the city. The largest financial benefits from increased diversion for the city however would probably come from reducing the need for waste export. If the city maximized its diversion rates for recyclables

and organics it could potentially save more than $150 million per year in waste export, provided that it could either offset the costs of organics export through its sale, or that it could find alternatives for in-city composting.51 This figure also assumes that DSNY contracts for waste export are not “put-or-pay.” In this type of contract, the city is obligated to compensate the contracted company even in the absence of exported waste. This is the case for at least one of DSNY most recent waste-export contracts, and as I will discuss later, this has serious implications for this possibility of savings and for a zero waste strategy in general.

48 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “Dirty Wasteful & Unsustainable.” 49 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “Not At Your Service: A Look at How New York City’s Commercial Waste System Is Failing Its Small Businesses.” 50 Tellus Institute with Sound Resource Management, “More Jobs, Less Pollution - Growing the Recycling Economy in the US.”

51 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “Report on the Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget and the Fiscal 2015 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report.” 52 City of New York, “Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions, November 2014,” 17.

Environmental NYC’s waste system generates significant environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Greenhouse gases (GHGs), which are contributors to climate change, are emitted due to the landfilling of NYC’s waste and during the transportation of waste to landfills and incinerators. Decomposing waste in landfills emits methane gas, a powerful contributor to the greenhouse effect and climate change. In 2014, solid waste from NYC in landfills emitted 2.0 million tons of carbon dioxide, which accounted for approximately 72.6% of the city’s fugitive GHG emissions, or more than 4% of the total city GHG emissions.52 GHGs are also emitted due to the combustion of fossil fuels for the transportation of waste. This amounts to a significant portion of the GHGs emitted by the waste system, since NYC’s waste has to travel great distances before being landfilled. New York City’s low diversion rates of recyclables and organics contribute to these issues by increasing the need for waste export. Currently, the city’s residential diversion rate is around 17%. According to some approaches, New York City can be considered to contribute to further resource extraction and depletion due to low


56

1. Solid Waste In New York City

diversion rates, even if indirectly.53 However, other authors would disagree, suggesting that increased recycling doesn’t necessarily reduce extraction of “virgin materials.”54 There is also extensive discussion over the environmental impacts of incinerating municipal solid waste. Currently NYC incinerates about 11% of its waste. Some authors advocate for incineration as a desirable alternative to landfilling, arguing that it emits less greenhouse gases, provides energy, and has no significant health impacts.55 Other authors, arguing that not only waste incineration is dangerous to human health, but also that it is more polluting and less efficient than coal-fired power plants, contest this view.56 Other reports argue that waste incinerators are more efficient than coal power plants but are inconclusive in relation to its health impacts.57 Considering that some might defend incineration as a desirable alternative to landfilling, I believe that New York City government should take a clear stance with regard to incineration as disposal method. In the last chapter of this thesis I return to this discussion, and analyze it in light of the city’s Zero Waste goal.

53 US EPA, “User’s Guide for WARM”; US EPA, “Life-Cycle Assessment: Principles and Practice.” The US EPA’s WARM model for calculating GHG reduction from alternative waste management scenarios for example, uses a life-cycle approach, and considers avoided emissions both upstream and downstream from recycling. This means that recycling is seen as substituting the need for extraction of virgin materials. 54 MacBride, Recycling Reconsidered, 8; Grosse, “Is recycling ‘part of the solution’?” 55 Citizens Budget Comission, “Taxes In, Garbage Out: The Need for Better Solid Waste Disposal Policies in New York City,” 15. 56 GAIA, “Incinerators: Myths vs. Facts about ‘Waste to Energy’”; Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, “In the Matter of the Application of COVANTA ENERGY CORPORATION.” 57 WSP Environmental Ltd, on behalf of the Government of Western Australia’s and Department of Environment and Conservation, “An Investigation Into The Performance (Environmental And Health) Of Waste To Energy Technologies Internationally.”


59

2. Plans and Alternatives: Changing the Current System

The issues generated by NYC’s waste system have prompted a series of plans, proposals, and initiatives aimed at changing the current system. In this chapter I will describe some of the recent plans by the city to address the waste system, focusing more extensively on the OneNYC plan, which contains the Zero Waste goal. I will also analyze community composting and canning as two current alternatives to the mainstream waste system. 2.1. Recent Plans and Proposals Many reports and plans have been published on NYC’s waste system since the closure of Fresh Kills landfill in 2001 and the shift to long-distance waste export. These have sought to address a multitude of issues stemming from this shift, in particular financial, environmental, and social. In this section I will summarize the analyses and proposals contained in these documents, and their positive impacts and limitations. In the first part I focus on three plans issued by the city: the SWMP (2006), PlaNYC (2007), and OneNYC (2015). 2.1.1. Solid Waste Management Plan (2006) The Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) was published in 2006, pursing requirements of the New York State Solid Waste Management Act. Its purpose is to provide the framework for solid waste management in New York City until 2025. It does so in three areas: waste prevention and recycling; long-term waste export; and commercial waste.1 The SWMP responded to the short-term waste export contracts established in aftermath of the Fresh Kills landfill closure. It also sought to address concerns about the concentration of waste transfer stations in the city, and the impacts of truck traffic generated by these facilities. The SWMP attempted to accomplish these goals by doing the following, for DSNY-collected waste: 1. Establishing long-term contracts with private waste transfer 1 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan.”


60

2. Plans and Alternatives

61

stations for waste containerization and export by rail; 2. Building city-owned, marine transfer stations (MTSs) in every borough for waste containerization and export by barge; 3. Developing a materials recovery facility for recyclables in the city. The SWMP sought through these initiatives to promote borough equity for waste. This concept meant localizing waste transfer stations and wastesheds within each of the city’s boroughs, so that one borough would not receive waste from another. All of these initiatives however addressed only DSNY-collected waste, which as the SWMP points out, comprises only 25% of the total citywide waste stream.2 To address privately collected waste, the plan established incentives for the disposal of commercial waste at city-owned MTSs. These incentives were: providing the Manhattan West 59th Street MTS to private waste management companies; encouraging private waste haulers to use city-owned MTSs for waste tipping; and requiring city-contracted transfer stations that export DSNYcollected waste by rail to also export any of the commercial waste they receive by rail. As of 2016, however, these incentives have either not been implemented or have been ineffective in shifting commercial waste export from trucks to rail and barge. First, the plan of using the West 59th Street MTS for commercial waste export by barge has not moved forward since 2006.3 Second, private haulers have so far not utilized the city-owned MTSs for commercial waste.4 In addition, rail transfer stations that are contracted with the city, such as Waste Management at Varick Avenue, are not exporting the entirety of their waste by rail, in disagreement with the SWMP’s recommendations.5

The SWMP has been successful in many aspects, including shifting part of the export of DSNY-collected waste to barge and rail transportation, and achieving a more equitable distribution of DSNY-collected waste between the five boroughs of NYC. However, although the current DSNY wastesheds are more equitable than previously, they are so in terms of borough equity, but not in terms of the Community Districts affected. This is important to note since NYC’s boroughs are large in comparison to the more localized impacts of waste transfer station siting. In addition, the SWMP has not caused the predicted improvements in the commercial waste system, thus limiting its impact on waste equity.

2 Ibid., 4–1. 3 Taylor, “Waste-Transfer Station in Manhattan Is Approved.” 4 Pledge 2 Protect, “Talking Trash: A Modern Approach That Protects Communities, Increases Recycling And Reduces Costs.” 5 In 2014, WMNY Varick Ave transfer station reported exporting 75% of its waste by rail; in 2015, this number dropped to 41%. Data from NYSDEC

2.1.2. PlaNYC (2007) PlaNYC was released in 2007 by the Bloomberg administration. It was the first major sustainability plan released by the city of New York.6 Although solid waste was already an important issue at the time, as evidenced by the 2006 SWMP, it was not included in the goals of PlaNYC, nor in its three subsequent progress reports. In 2011, the city issued an update of PlaNYC, which included specific goals on solid waste. The plan highlighted the environmental impacts of the city’s solid waste system, especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and truck traffic. Its main stated goal was to divert 75% of waste from landfills by 2030, an ambitious target considering the residential diversion rate of 15% in 2011.7 PlaNYC makes many references to the SWMP. It subscribes to SWMP’s strategies of increasing rail and barge transportation of waste to reduce GHGs, and of promoting borough equity for annual transfer station reports. Without having access to the actual contract established between the city and WMNY, I cannot state that WMNY was actually required to export commercial waste also by rail, although this was a recommendation of the 2006 SWMP. Department of Environment and Conservation, “NYSDEC FTP Page.” 6 ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability USA, “The Process Behind PlaNYC: How the City of New York Developed Its Comprehensive Long-Term Sustainability Plan.” 7 City of New York, “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York – Update April 2011,” 145.


62

2. Plans and Alternatives

residential waste. PlaNYC however does not include substantial strategies to address the concentration of commercial waste, besides the ones that were already listed in the SWMP. With regard to the commercial waste system, PlaNYC highlights the need for better data on how this system operates. The plan proposes conducting a comprehensive study of commercial waste collection in order to gain a full picture of this system.8 The summary report of this study was published in 2012 and confirmed some of the concerns over the commercial waste system, such as inefficient routes and low diversion rates.9 2.1.3. OneNYC (2015) The OneNYC plan, released in May 2015 by the De Blasio administration, is the latest in the series of sustainability plans for the city that was inaugurated with PlanNYC. OneNYC articulates “the goals and long-term agenda of the de Blasio administration,” under the topics of growth, equity, sustainability, and resilience.10 The Zero Waste goal is listed under the sustainability chapter, and its tagline is “New York City will send zero waste to landfills by 2030.”11 The goal’s main target is to “Reduce volume of DSNYcollected refuse (excluding material collected for reuse/recycling) by 90 percent relative to 2005 baseline of ~3.6M tons.”12 This target is still ambitious, however less than sending “zero waste to landfills by 2030,” since it does not include commercial and C&D waste, which comprise 75% of all the city’s waste. Regarding commercial and C&D waste, the plan has the target of “increasing the diversion rate (…) from current state of ~52 percent.”13 8 Ibid., 144. 9 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report.” 10 City of New York Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, One New York, 5. 11 Ibid., 176. 12 Ibid. 13 . It is important to note that the citywide diversion rate of approximately 52% considered by the plan is controversial. This is due to the fact that it considers as recycling the use of excavated soil from the C&D stream for “beneficial cover” in landfills. “Beneficial cover” means utilizing the soil as a cover material between layers of waste in landfill.

63 Table 2.1: OneNYC Plan – Zero Waste Initiatives Initiative

Supporting initiatives (A) Develop additional organics sorting and processing capacity in New York City and the region;

(1) Expand the New York City Organics program to serve all New Yorkers by the end of 2018

(B) Process 250 tons of food waste per day at City WWTPs and assess long-term feasibility of scaling up processing of organic food waste; (C) Expand community composting opportunities in all five boroughs.

(2) Enhance the City’s curbside recycling program by offering singlestream recycling by 2020

(A) Create and expand markets for recycled materials.

(3) Reduce the use of plastic bags and other non-compostable waste

n/a

(4) Give every New Yorker the opportunity to recycle and reduce waste, n/a including at NYCHA housing (5) Make all schools Zero Waste Schools

n/a

(6) Expand opportunities to reuse and recycle textiles and electronic waste

n/a

(7) Develop an equitable blueprint for a Save-As-You-Throw program to reduce waste

n/a (A) Conduct a comprehensive study of commercial waste collection zones; (B) Encourage periodic waste audits for large commercial buildings;

(8) Reduce commercial waste disposal by 90 percent by 2030

(C) Create a Zero Waste Challenge program for large commercial waste generators; (D) Revise the commercial recycling rules to make recycling easier for businesses; (E) Require all food service establishments to source-separate food waste.


64

2. Plans and Alternatives

65

The plans lists a series of initiatives under the Zero Waste goal, aimed at achieving the targets described above. In this section I will analyze some of its main initiatives vis-à-vis the plan’s targets.

study, there are only seven facilities within 100 miles of NYC and 22 facilities between 100 and 400 miles of NYC that could take commingled food and yard waste, which is the current composition of the city’s curbside organic waste.15 To expand organics collection from the current number of 137,000 households to the more than 3 million total households in the city, DSNY must secure additional processing capacity for organics.16 DSNY is currently bidding for long-term contracts with regional organics processors in order to expand its organics curbside collection program. One of the issues that the city is facing with regards to the expansion of its composting program is its financial feasibility. While it requires regional processing capacity to expand curbside collection, it must also ensure high participation rates in order to make use of additional processing capacity. The second supporting initiative is to expand processing capacity of food waste at the anaerobic digester at the Newtown Creek sewage treatment plant, from its initial pilot of 1,5 tons per day to 500 tons per day. This would amount to approximately 28% of the city’s residential food waste, or 14% of the city’s total food waste. This alternative keeps the processing of organics inside the city and generates biogas that can be pumped into the city’s gas grid. The last supporting initiative is to expand community composting opportunities in the city. NYC currently has 225 community composting sites; some accept yard waste and some accept food and yard waste.17 In fiscal year 2015, food drop-off sites received 1,150 tons of organics, from a total of more than 270,000 household drop-offs.18 This is a small tonnage when compared to the city’s total organics waste stream, yet it shows the potential for public participation in composting. This participation has been growing – the tonnage received at drop-off sites increased almost

Expansion of residential organics collection Changing how the current waste system deals with residential organics has the possibility to greatly increase diversion rates from landfill. Residential organics comprise 31% of the residential waste stream, or approximately 930,000 tons of material generated per year. Currently, most of this material is sent to landfills where it generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Existing alternatives to landfilling organics are: composting to produce fertilizer, in local community gardens or regional composting facilities; or anaerobically digesting it to produce biogas, an equivalent of natural gas that can be combusted for energy. New York City supports in-city composting since 1993, when it created the NYC Compost Project. The Compost Project trains “master composters” and provides support to community composting. In community composting, organic material is collected and composted within the city, usually in community gardens, in a system that is parallel to DSNY’s. More recently in 2013, DSNY began a curbside organics collection program, collecting commingled food and yard waste. The program is continuously expanding and was serving approximately 137,000 households as of June 2015.14 The city has also built an anaerobic digester at one of its sewage treatment plants. The digester is currently used for processing sewage sludge, and the Department of Environmental Protection is testing the feasibility of processing food waste at this facility. These three programs are currently the city’s main alternatives to landfilling organics. The Zero Waste plan builds on these three alternatives to increase organics diversion. The first supporting initiative with regards to organics diversion is to build more capacity in the New York region to process organics. According to a DSNY 14 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “2015 NYC Organics Collection Report,” 5.

15 Ibid., 41. 16 “NYCdata: Number of Households - By Income Range.” 17 City of New York Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, One New York, 179. 18 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “2015 NYC Organics Collection Report,” 10.


66

2. Plans and Alternatives

67

20 times between fiscal year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2015.19 The OneNYC plan recognizes community composting as an important educational tool that helps teach New Yorkers about the processes and value of composting, while acknowledging that it has takes small quantities of organics when compared to DSNY’s curbside collection. As described in the OneNYC plan, “Making and using compost locally demonstrates to New Yorkers firsthand that apple cores and eggshells are not garbage, but rather useful resources.”20

City, most residential recyclables have been processed at the Sunset Park MRF since 2013. This initiative of the Zero Waste goal seeks to transform New York City’s recycling system into single-stream by 2020. The arguments for this change are predicted higher participation rates due to simpler source-separation, and thus increased diversion; and increased efficiency from truck routes, with ensuing reduction of emissions and truck traffic.24 However, some authors question the efficiency of single-stream recycling in diverting more material from the waste stream.25

Transitioning to single-stream recycling New York City’s mandatory recycling program for residents began in 1989, and was fully implemented to all residents by 1993.21 The mandatory recycling law established the residential source-separation of recyclables in two streams: the first contains paper and cardboard; and the second contains metal, glass and plastic. In waste management, the balance between the complexity of source-separation and after collection recovery of materials is often described as a tradeoff between the effort required from residents and the costs for collection and separation.22 The dual-stream method selected for New York City in 1989 was referred to as striking “(…) a balance between easy participation and collection and easy separation and processing.”23 However, since 1989, the recycling industry has made technical improvements that make it feasible to separate commingled material in a greater number of categories – most notably through the introduction of mechanized “material recovery facilities,” or MRFs. In New York 19 Ibid. 20 City of New York Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, One New York, 179. 21 “New York City Recycling Law”, Local Law No. 19 of 1989 (Administrative Code of The City of New York, § 16-301 et Seq.). 22 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “Processing and Marketing Recyclables in New York City,” 50. The general rationale is that more complex source-separation leads to higher costs in collection and lower costs for recovery of materials, while lowering participation rates; conversely, simpler source separation leads to higher participation rates, lower collection costs, and higher recovery costs. 23 Ibid.

Reducing plastic bags and non-compostable waste This initiative describes removing or reducing certain materials form the waste stream such as plastic bags and expanded polystyrene (EPS), also known by its brand name “styrofoam”. These changes to the waste stream can be done through mandatory fees for products such as single-use bags, or by banning products altogether. New York City’s attempt at banning EPS is an interesting case to explore challenges in this initiative. In 2013, the City Council passed Local Law 142, which required the Sanitation Commissioner to determine if singe-use EPS products, such as takeout containers, could be recycled at the city contracted materials recovery facility “in a manner that is environmentally effective, economically feasible, and safe for employees.”26 If these conditions were not met, the law required the Commissioner to ban the product. In January 2015, after conducting studies, DSNY decided to ban single-use EPS products, following similar initiatives in other cities such as San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Following the ban, the city was sued by the Restaurant Action Alliance, along with companies including Dart Container Corporation, a manufacturer of single-use EPS products. In 24 City of New York Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, One New York, 180. 25 Lantz and Morawski, “The Battle for Recycling”; Byars, “Single-Stream Versus Dual Stream Recycling Management.” 26 “De Blasio Administration Bans Single-Use Styrofoam Products in New York City Beginning July 1, 2015.”


68

2. Plans and Alternatives

69

Table 2.3: Recyclables Source-Separation Requirements for Different Generators Generator

Must recycle

How to separate

Food or beverage service establishments

Corrugated cardboard

Bundled

Bulk metal

Next to recyclables

Metal cans

Mixed in clear plastic bags

Aluminum foil products Glass bottles and jars Plastic bottles and jugs

Table 2.2: Tradeoffs in Source-Separation of Recyclables Source-separation

Participation

Collection costs

Material recovery costs

More complex (multiple material streams)

Lower

Higher

Simpler (few or single material streams)

Higher

Lower

All other businesses

Corrugated cardboard

Bundled

Lower

Bulk metal

Next to recyclables

Office paper

Mixed in clear plastic bags

Higher

Magazines, catalogs, phone books Newspapers Textiles (if more than 10% of wastestream) Residences

Corrugated cardboard

Bundled

Paper (except hardcover books, waxed, soiled, or soft paper)

In clear plastic bags

Metal

Mixed in clear plastic bags

Glass bottles and jars Rigid plastic Cartons


70

2. Plans and Alternatives

71

September 2015, the city’s ban was overturned by the New York State Supreme Court, on the basis that EPS is recyclable, and in disagreement with DSNY’s assessment of the economic and environmental feasibility of recycling EPS.27

Challenge, restaurants committed to a 50% food waste diversion rate and to reporting of their efforts. The city estimates that, within 6 months, 2,500 tons of food waste were diverted from landfills due to this initiative. This corresponds to approximately 0.5% of the total commercial food waste generated in the city.29 Though this may seem a small number, if the total commercial food waste was diverted by 50% this would mean approximately 460,000 tons per year diverted from landfills.30 To take advantage of the large amounts of waste that can be diverted just by increasing food waste diversion, the last supporting initiative will require all food service establishments to sourceseparate their food waste. This is also a requirement of Local Law 146 of 2013. This law has a phased approach that takes into consideration the processing capacity for food waste in the New York City region. The fourth supporting initiative on commercial waste is the revision of New York City commercial recycling rules. Businesses in New York City are mandated to source-separate their recyclable materials since 1993. Confusion is generated by the fact that recycling rules vary depending on the type of business. Furthermore, commercial recycling rules are different from residential recycling rules, adding to this confusion. The revision of commercial recycling rules aims to make it easier for businesses to recycle. The idea is to change both the residential and commercial rules to accommodate single-stream recycling. This would not only mean a less complicated source-separation but also the adoption of the same rules for separating recyclables New Yorker’s homes and businesses.

Reduction of commercial waste disposal Reducing commercial waste by 90% by 2030 is one of the most ambitious initiatives from the Zero Waste goal. This is due to a series of factors, including the lack of reliable data on commercial waste, as well as the limited regulatory influence and mechanisms that city agencies currently have to ensure higher diversion rates for commercial waste. The first supporting initiative is to establish commercial waste collection zones, also know as “franchising.” This has been developed in other cities in the US such as Los Angeles and San José, California. In a franchising system, waste haulers are selected through contracts to operate only in certain areas of the city. Franchising can help make private haulers routes more efficient, since they are only allowed to operate within specific areas of the city as defined by a zone system. This can help reduce emissions from private trucks, which today operate on routes that are 5 times more inefficient than DSNY’s routes.28 The second initiative attempts to fill in the data gap on commercial waste generation through periodic waste audits. Having reliable data is fundamental to achieve the diversion target. These audits would be voluntary for businesses, though the plan also describes the possibility of working with the City Council to require all large generators to complete waste audits. The third supporting initiative is the creation of a voluntary Zero Waste Challenge for large commercial waste generators. This program would follow the framework of the Food Waste Challenge, run by the city in 2013 with over 100 restaurants. In the Food Waste 27 Mueller, “Judge Strikes Down New York City’s Ban on Foam Food Containers”; “Judge Overturns NYC’s EPS Ban | Plastics News.” 28 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “How to Increase Good Jobs, Recycling, and Justice in the Commercial Waste Industry.”

2.2. Alternatives In parallel to the plans and initiatives developed by the city, some organizations and individuals have established alternative 29 2,500 tons / (2 million commercial tons over 6 months * 35% organics * 66% food waste in organics) 30 4 million tons of commercial waste per year * 35% organics * 66% food waste in organics * 50% diversion


72

2. Plans and Alternatives

73

practices that deal with the same issues. I’ve selected two of these practices to discuss in this section: community composting and canning. I believe that both are interesting cases because they address issues such as waste export and equity; because they reveal two different stances from the city in relation to alternative waste practices; and because they present potential for creating structural changes in NYC’s waste system by creating a more distributed waste infrastructure.

The city has long recognized these benefits, and since 1993 runs the New York City Compost Project (NYCCP).33 The NYCCP provides training and technical assistance to residents and organizations that want to set up composting initiatives. Although the city recognizes the importance of community composting, evidenced in its publications and in its support for the NYCCP, community composting is not usually considered by the city as a scalable alternative for the current mainstream waste system.34 Currently, there are no figures for the total number of organics composted in all community sites in NYC.35 Therefore, DSNY is currently assessing regional facilities that can accept organics from its pilot curbside collection program. Within 100 miles of the city, DSNY has found a total capacity for processing only 200,000 tons of organics per year. Thus the agency is looking to expand regional organics processing capacity, as described in the Zero Waste initiatives. One of the issues with relying on regional organics composting is that it generates some of the same problems as other types of waste export. This means more trucks and emissions, especially if DSNY has to rely on composting facilities that are more than 100 miles away. The other problem is that it preserves the model of waste consolidation at in-city transfer stations, with the resulting impacts on overburdened neighborhoods. Community composting can offer an alternative to both of these problems by creating more localized loops of organic material. Truck trips and transfer station concentration can be avoided by composting residential organics within the neighborhoods they are generated. Current community initiatives have shown alternative models for collecting and composting waste, but the issue remains on whether these could be scaled up to take a significant portion

2.2.1. Community Composting In New York City, community composting is the practice of small to medium scale composting within the city, usually in gardens and by local community members. There are hundreds of community compost sites in NYC, ranging from 10 to 20,000 square feet, located in gardens, schools, rooftops, urban farms, and other properties.31 These sites take organic material and manage its decomposition in order to turn it into compost, a fertilizer that improves soil health. Composting sites have a variety of strategies for collecting organics. Some accept drop-off from residents, others partner with organizations such as farmers markets in order to provide them with organics, and some have programs to collect organics on bicycles.32 This allows these sites to bypass the DSNY collection or private collection and obtain the organics directly from residents and businesses. Community composting provides benefits such as increasing organics diversion, thus reducing the need for waste export; creating jobs; providing community outreach and education about the importance of waste diversion and the value of composting. 31 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “2014 NYC Community Composting Report,” 6. 32 Wolfram, “BKROT Makes Composting Easy, Supports Bushwick’s Urban Farms.” BKROT has been running a bike collection program since 2013. Other organizations such as Sure We Can are starting their compost sites with bike collection. GrowNYC for example runs several food scrap drop-off sites in the city, and delivers the collected organics to several community composting sites.

33 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “2014 NYC Community Composting Report,” 5. 34 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “2015 NYC Organics Collection Report,” 41. 35 Some of the largest such as Big Reuse have composted 500 tons of organics in 2015, which is a small fraction of the 1 million tons of organics generated just by residents and publics institutions in NYC every year.


74

2. Plans and Alternatives

75

of the organics generated. This is one of the alternatives that I have tested in the different scenarios, which I will describe in chapter 3.

bottle bills increase a state’s diversion rate.40 Another environmental advantage of canning is that it is able to reach part of the waste stream that DSNY by itself is not capable of. Many beverage containers are used on the go and disposed in street trash baskets, of which only 4% are recycling baskets.41 Canners are able to retrieve recyclable containers from the other 96% of street baskets. In addition, they retrieve containers from commercial curbside trash, a waste stream with very low rates of container recycling.42 This helps boost the diversion rates of commercial recyclables, another goal that is part of the Zero Waste plan. Finally, some producers will reuse the returned containers instead of recycling them. Reuse is more environmentally sound than recycling since it has lower energy and material costs, and is thus a preferable strategy in waste management.43 Canning also provides social benefits for those practicing it. First, it provides income for disadvantaged individuals. These may be elderly, non-English speaking immigrants, or homeless persons.44 Sometimes, canning is the only type of work that is available for these individuals to engage in. Second, canning can help foster community and provide social services to these individuals. Sure We Can, a not-for-profit operating in Williamsburg since 2007 provides a safe space for canners to return containers and receive their deposits. It also provides them with a sense of community, social acceptance, and opportunities for learning and expression through workshops.45 Similarly to community composting, canning can present a more distributed strategy of dealing with materials that can have

2.2.2. Canning In New York City there is a common practice of “canning,” also known as “trash picking” or “scavenging.” In this practice, persons collect bottles and cans from curbside trash in order to return them to “redemption centers” in exchange for a 5-cent deposit refund. These persons do so to provide themselves with a supplemental income, or sometimes with the entirety of their income. The practice of canning is maybe as old as New York State’s “Bottle Bill” from 1982, with an article reporting this practice as early as 1987.36 Canning has lived in a legal gray area since then, with increased attempts at criminalizing the activity37. The argument for the criminalization of canning rests on the premise that curbside trash is property of the Department of Sanitation.38 In the current De Blasio administration, the argument that canning makes it difficult for the city to track recyclables diversion rates has been added to the criminalization discourse against canners.39 Tracking diversion rates is important with regard to the administration’s Zero Waste goal. However, I believe criminalizing an activity that provides income to many individuals – most of whom are disadvantaged – as well as environmental and social benefits is not the best approach to this issue. The practice of canning has significant environmental benefits in the sense that it helps take full advantage of New York State’s Bottle Bill. Returned containers are recycled, contributing to the administration Zero Waste goal. Also, research has shown that 36 Rimer, “Can Picker”; Butterfield, “Cans, a Man, a Plan.” 37 “Local Law 56 of 2013 (Administrative Code of The City of New York, § 16-118 and 16-464),” 56. 38 Nir, “New York City Fights Scavengers Over a Treasure”. A case in the US Supreme Court might present a point against the argument of curbside trash as property; see “United States Supreme Court, CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, No. 86-684.” 39 Nir, “New York City Fights Scavengers Over a Treasure.”

40 “BottleBill.org - Bottle Bills Reduce Waste.” 41 “BottleBill.org - What Is a Bottle Bill?”; Navarro, “On Recycling, N.Y.C. Goes From Leader to Laggard”; City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Public Space Recycling Pilot Program.” 42 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “Dirty Wasteful & Unsustainable”; Emma Withford, “NYC Commercial Sanitation Workers Say There’s ‘Virtually No Recycling.’” 43 US EPA, “Sustainable Materials Management.” 44 Kilgannon, “A ‘Street Nun’ Who Specializes in Redemption”; Sure We Can, “Sure We Can: Redemption.” 45 Sure We Can, “Sure We Can: Redemption.”


76

2. Plans and Alternatives

77

beneficial impacts on the current waste system. This alternative was also tested in the scenarios built for this thesis and the results are described in chapter 3.

maximum diversion of recyclables affect issues of equity and waste distribution among different neighborhoods? What changes in equity can we actually achieve by just addressing residential waste? How many tons can we divert from export if we encourage more community composting? How many economic opportunities can be created through canning in NYC? I believe these are relevant questions to most stakeholders involved in discussions about waste in NYC. However, due to difficult access to data and systemic complexity, the questions become difficult to answer even if approximately. My research attempts to intervene in this space by making easier for stakeholders to answer these types of questions and visualize their results spatially. I have done this by designing a scenario-building tool that allows testing different scenarios and comparing the results with the current system. This tool utilizes a Geographic Information System (GIS) to model NYC’s waste system. I believe this is a good application for GIS because of the mobility of waste, and because many of the issues that arise from this system are related to its mobility and the siting of waste infrastructure. One of the benefits of giving different stakeholders access to such a tool is allowing them to find points of convergence among themselves. It also allows them to better discuss strategies and goals for NYC’s waste system even when their positions are divergent. In the next chapter I will describe the concept behind this tool, how it was built, how it was used, and what are the results and insights it has provided for my research and for stakeholders.

2.3. We Need a Better Way to Visualize This System The previous sections have shown how complex New York City’s waste system is, both in its functioning as well as in the scope and diversity of its impacts. In trying to address these impacts, the city has devised plans with of strategies aimed at the system’s infrastructure, logistics, behaviors, and material composition. Multiple non-governmental organizations have focused on certain parts of this system, providing analysis and recommendations on specific issues. And some actors have devised alternative strategies and are implementing them in parallel to the mainstream waste system. Throughout the process of analyzing these documents and initiatives, it became clear how difficult it is to understand the system-wide impacts of their implementation. This is closely related to the complexity of this system, which is comprised of many different parts and actors, and in which materials flow through different and extensive streams. Through interviews with multiple stakeholders from different fields and backgrounds, as well as analyzing documents and city council meeting transcripts, I have observed a convergence of goals and visions for the future of NYC’s waste. Most stakeholders are concerned with environmental, financial, and equity issues; most support higher diversion, alternatives to landfilling, product bans, and community initiatives. However, these convergences are difficult to identify and act on, partly because of the difficulty in understanding the waste system and the multiple impacts of altering it. For example, possible questions related to understanding impacts on this system could be: how many tons of waste can we divert from landfills if we maximized our organics diversion for both publicly and privately collected waste? How would a


78

2. Plans and Alternatives

A canner arriving at Sure We Can, Brooklyn. Canners can drop-off their containers and collect their returns there.

79


80

2. Plans and Alternatives

Containers collected by canners at Sure We Can, Brooklyn. After being sorted, containers will be returned for a 5-cent refund.

81

Sure We Can’s new composting program, started in 2016. It will help provide canners income during winter.


82

2. Plans and Alternatives

Compost For Brooklyn, a community garden in Ditmas Park where residents can drop-off food scraps for composting.

83

The community garden’s compost tumbler bins.


84

2. Plans and Alternatives

A volunteer helps chop food scraps before they’re added to the compost tumblers at Compost For Brooklyn.

85

Compost from the tumblers is moved to wire bins for the last step of the composting process.


87

3. Visualizing the Waste System and its Future

To assess the impacts of different initiatives and changes to NYC’s waste system, it was necessary first to create a model of New York City’s current waste system. This model would accomplish two main things: being an accurate representation of NYC’s current waste system, and allowing to manipulate the variables in this system in order to test different scenarios. The variables selected for manipulation were decided based on some of the current plans, initiatives, and alternatives proposed for NYC, which were discussed in the previous chapter. Another intended outcome of this thesis was making this model publicly available, especially to professionals, city employees, and community members interested in the issues around waste in NYC. These could also include waste management professionals, recycling professionals, DSNY employees, environmental justice groups, community organizations, and environmentalists. The model would also be accessible to a wider public, although in being highly technical it might present challenges for an audience that is not familiar with some of its concepts and terminology. A third and also important aspect was to make the data used in this model open and accessible. As I will discuss in further detail in the following sections, there is limited availability of publicly accessible data on waste in New York, especially on privately collected waste. Opening up the data that I have obtained and processed during the making of this model can contribute to a growing community of stakeholders that are working on these issues in NYC. 3.1. System Definition In order to model NYC’s waste system, it first was necessary to define it. There are many possible ways to define a waste system as complex as this, as evidenced by the different approaches of city and state agencies responsible for handling and regulating it, different definitions by academics, industry, and professionals. The definition of this system for the purposes of this model takes into account some factors which have been previously


88

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

89

discussed: the system’s geographic limits or boundaries; the types of waste considered as being part of the system and their grouping; the composition of the different waste streams in the system; the flows of these waste streams; and the availability of data.

transfer stations also receive commercial waste, and not all of them specify the final destination for each part of the waste stream. In fact, some may commingle residential and commercial waste before sending it to its final destination. Therefore approximations were sometimes necessary when defining the final disposal destination for DSNY-collected waste.

3.1.1. Data and Assumptions Models usually operate with incomplete information, and this is also the case for this model of NYC’s waste system. In addition, a model of a waste system is a simplified version of its reality, much like ecological models are simplifications of how ecological systems work.1 Therefore, incomplete data, as in the case of NYC’s waste system, is not an impediment to its modeling. However, it is necessary to define and describe the assumptions that are made in the absence of certain data, which I do in this section. The data required for modeling the waste system was generally divided between the three main waste streams that comprise it: residential and institutional, commercial, and construction and demolition. Different sources of data for the streams also reflect the different agencies that are responsible for regulating them. Residential and institutional waste stream (publicly collected) This is the waste stream with the greatest amount and most detailed data available. DSNY reports the collected amounts for each of the source-separated materials monthly by Community District.2 The agency also reports the recycling facilities, transfer stations and incinerators where the collected waste is taken to by community district.3 This information is updated less frequently, but it also changes less frequently due to the tendency of DSNY to establish long-term contracts with these facilities. The final destination of DSNY-collected waste that is tipped off at transfer stations can usually be obtained from the transfer stations annual reports filed with NYSDEC. However, many of these

Commercial waste stream and C&D waste stream (privately collected) Due to lack of extensive monitoring and data, it is necessary to make more assumptions for the commercial waste stream than for the residential. There are generally three methods for estimating the generation and diversion of waste in the commercial stream. These methods are waste hauler surveys; the employee-based disposal model; and estimates based on self-reported transfer station data. Each of these methods has pros and cons.4 For this model, I have used transfer station data to estimate commercial waste generation and diversion. This is mostly due to two benefits of using transfer station data. First, it allows to estimate which are the facilities handling commercial waste in the city. This is particularly important to address issues of equity, by allowing to measure the concentration of waste in certain neighborhoods. Second, it allows to estimate the final disposal sites for NYC’s waste. This is fundamental in understanding the environmental impacts of out-of-city waste export. Data for the C&D waste stream was mostly obtained form NYSDEC annual reports. Since C&D debris is most times kept separate from the other waste streams until its disposal, it was not necessary to make further assumptions to determine the amount of waste received at each C&D processor facility. However, because some of the C&D generated in the city is be directly taken to transfer stations in New Jersey, the total generation of C&D may have been under estimated in this model.

1 McCarthy, “Using Models to Compare the Ecology of Cities,” 112. 2 “DSNY Monthly Tonnage Data.” 3 “DSNY’s Refuse and Recycling Disposal Networks.”

4 Adapted from City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report,” 36.


Citywide

Borough

Citywide

Commercial

Commercial

Construction & demolition

Composition

DSNY estimates7

n/a

DSNY estimates5

DSNY-conducted waste characterization study (citywide)1

DSNY estimates9

NYSDEC C&D processors annual reports8

NYSDEC C&D processors annual reports

NYSDEC C&D processors annual reports

n/a

n/a

n/a

Citywide generated multiplied by borough generation factors6

Derived from NYSDEC transfer station annual reports4

Disposal

Derived from NYSDEC transfer station annual reports

DSNY reported disposal and recycling facilities used3

Consolidation

Derived from n/a NYSDEC annual reports tonnages ([tons received at recycling facilities - tons delivered by DSNY]/ commercial tons generated)

Derived from tonnages (recyclables / nonrecyclables)

DSNY reported monthly tonnages by source-separated material (refuse, paper, MGP)2 Derived from NYSDEC transfer station annual reports (tons received - tons delivered by DSNY)

Diversion

Generation

Description Locations where containers can be returned for the 5 cent deposit Includes lots that have active community gardens Calculations of GHG reductions according to different waste scenarios Includes maximum tons or volume that facilities are permitted to received per day or year

Data NYC container redemption centers NYC publicly-owned vacant lots Greenhouse gas emissions for different scenarios Permitted tons for solid waste management facilities

Table 3.2: Other Data Utilized

NYSDEC, through FOIL request

EPA WARM model

Living Lots NYC, by 596 Acres

NYSDEC, through FOIL request, provided by Silvia Xavier

Source

1 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “NYC Waste Characterization Study: Final Report, Volume 1.” 2 “DSNY Monthly Tonnage Data.” 3 “DSNY’s Refuse and Recycling Disposal Networks.” 4 Department of Environment and Conservation, “NYSDEC FTP Page.” 5 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report.” 6 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “Commercial Waste Management Study,” Appendix D, 8. 7 City of New York, “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York – Update April 2011,” 137. 8 Department of Environment and Conservation, “NYSDEC FTP Page.” 9 City of New York, “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York – Update April 2011,” 137. Table 3.2: Other Data Utilized

Sources for Table 3.1:

Scale Community District

Wastestream Residential

Table 3.1: Data for NYC Wastestreams


92

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

Model schematic for waste generated and transfer stations used per Community District.

93 Model schematic for waste received per Community District.


Disposal quantities by destination. Many reports are filled in manually, like this one.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Waste Management transfer station, 38-22 Review Ave, Queens.

Tons received per month and year.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Waste Management transfer station, 38-22 Review Ave, Queens.


Disposal quantities by destination.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Action Environmental transfer station, 941 Stanley Ave, Brooklyn.

Tons received per month and year.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Action Environmental transfer station, 941 Stanley Ave, Brooklyn.


Disposal quantities by destination.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Sims Sunset Park MRF, 472 2nd Ave, Brooklyn (handles all recyclables from DSNY).

Tons received per month and year. Note measuring methods at the top.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Sims Sunset Park MRF, 472 2nd Ave, Brooklyn (handles all recyclables from DSNY).


Final country of destination is not specified.

Disposal quantities by destination.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Metropolitan Paper recyclables handling facility, 992 Essex St, Brooklyn.

Tons received per month and year. It is not uncommon to find incomplete reports.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Metropolitan Paper recyclables handling facility, 992 Essex St, Brooklyn.


Some transfer stations attach additional sheets with more detailed info.

Disposal quantities by destination.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Empire State Cardboard Recycling reyclables handling facility, 3 Railroad Place, Queens.

Some transfer stations attach additional sheets with more detailed info.

Disposal quantities by destination.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Empire State Cardboard Recycling reyclables handling facility, 3 Railroad Place, Queens.


This transfer station attached their radioactive waste log.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Tully Environmental transfer station, 127-30 34th Ave, Queens.

All transfer stations are required to monitor radioactive waste, yet this page is rarely filled in most reports.

From annual report submitted to NYSDEC, 2014.

Tully Environmental transfer station, 127-30 34th Ave, Queens.


106

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

3.1.2. Variables and Metrics In order to build a model of NYC’s waste system, it was necessary to define both the variables that could be manipulated as well as the metrics that would be evaluated for the different scenarios. In other words, it was necessary to determine what would be the “inputs and outputs” of this model. The variables were defined taking into consideration the OneNYC’s Zero Waste goals. The main goal of increasing diversion of recyclable and organic material from landfill was included in the form of diversion rate variables, as well as community composting as an alternative strategy. Some other strategies not addressed in the OneNYC plan were also included as variables such as waste reduction and canning. An experimental variable was also created that allowed to change the current system of transfer stations to one where waste infrastructure is equally distributed in each Community District. The Zero Waste goal and other studies and reports on NYC’s waste system were also considered in developing the outputs of the model. The intention was to summarize the issues that are commonly associated with NYC’s current waste system in the form of a few simple metrics. These metrics were divided into three main categories of equity, environment, and finance, which correspond to the lenses I have used in my research. 3.2. Building Scenarios In this section I describe the integration of the model into a scenario-building and visualization tool. I describe its interface and explain some of the rationale and choices behind it. I then describe the initial results of visualizing NYC’s current waste system utilizing the scenario-building tool. 3.2.1. Designing the Scenario-Building Tool The scenario-building tool was built as a web application. It is called “Waste Scenario,” and can be accessed at www.wastescenario. com. The main reasons for using a web application were to utilize

107

a platform and interface that is familiar to most users, i.e. the web browser; and to be able to make it easily accessible on the internet. The web application was built using a “model–view–controller architecture.” This means that as users interact with the interface, they can modify the underlying data, which in turn updates the visualization. The data was compiled from the sources described in the previous sections and describes NYC’s current waste system. The basic premise of the scenario-building tool is to allow comparison between the current waste system and alternative scenarios. Therefore, the variables always reference the current baseline while allowing it to be modified. In the same way, the metrics are displayed in comparison to calculations for the current waste system. The scenario tool’s interface has three main components: a map, a dashboard, and a control sidebar. On the map, users can see the location and amount of waste received at each waste facility and at each community district. They can also toggle other map views such as waste facilities by material received, or the disposal destinations of NYC’s waste. The dashboard displays metrics under the categories for of equity, financial, and environmental issues. These include waste received per community district; waste generated per borough; waste exported by state; waste diversion and generation rates; reduction of GHGs; city costs; and job creation. The dashboard uses mostly bar and pie charts to display these metrics. The control sidebar is where users manipulate the scenario. Using a combination of sliders and switches, they can alter the variables listed in the previous section, such as diversion and reduction rates, community composting and canning. As users change these variables, both the map and the dashboard are automatically updated to display the consequences of these changes. Both views also allow for the comparison of the current waste system with the scenario built by users, so that they can assess the impact of their changes.


108

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

109

Table 3.5: Model Metrics (Outputs) Lens

Topic

Metrics

Equity

Concentration of waste

Tons of waste received per year by Community District Percentage of citywide waste received per year by Community District

Table 3.4: Model Variables (Inputs) Category

Stream

Variable

Waste diversion rate

Recyclables

Residential

Tons of waste received vs. tons of waste generated per year by borough Tons of waste received per person per year by Community District

Commercial Organics

Residential Commercial

Waste reduction rate

All

Alternative waste strategies

Community composting % of residential waste composted in vacant lots and community gardens, in same Community District as generated

Gini index of waste received per person per year by Community District

Residential Commercial C&D

Canning

Local resource centers

% of containers returned at redemption centers, in same Community District as generated All residential waste stays within the same Community District in which it was generated

Environment

Diversion from landfill

Percentage of waste diverted from landfill (recycled and composted, excluding C&D)

Waste reduction

Tons of waste reduced

Emissions and energy

Truck miles travelled for in-city waste collection Changes in GHGs (million tons of CO2 emitted) Changes in energy use (BTUs)

Finance

City of New York costs

Collection costs in dollars per year Waste export costs in dollars per year

Jobs created or reduced

Landfilling / incineration Composting Recycling Canning

Container return

Deposits recovered in dollars per year


110

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

111

Sliders for variables

Control sidebar

Map legend and layer control

Recycling Composting Reduction Alternatives Experimental


112

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

Map updates automatically when variables are changed

113


114

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

115

Alternatives are toggled using switches


116

Clicking on districts provides detailed info

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

117


118

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

Waste export destinations

119


120

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

121

Topic for metrics

Switches between map and dashboard


122

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

123


124

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

3.2.2. The Current System Modeling NYC’s current waste system confirmed many of the issues pointed out in the plans and reports that I’ve analyzed. The model confirmed the concentration of transfer stations and waste tonnages in a few neighborhoods. Community District 1 in Brooklyn (BK01), which includes the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, received 22% of all of the city’s waste. The model also showed that this concentration is higher for private waste. While BK01 receives 12% of the citywide residential and institutional waste, it received 17% of the commercial waste and 30% of the C&D waste. In fact, the model revealed that the concentration of commercial and C&D waste is higher than of residential and institutional waste in the current system. Community District 7 in Queens for example receives currently 13% of all citywide waste. But, if we just consider C&D waste this figure raises to 22%. In the South Bronx, Community District 1 receives 12% of the current citywide waste and 21% of all commercial waste. The model also showed a current citywide diversion rate of 23.1% for recyclables and 4.5% for organics. The organics diversion rate considers the diversion of fat, oil, and grease in commercial establishments.5 In addition, the model pointed that 11.4% of the total citywide waste is sent to incinerators. It is important to note in the equity assessment is that while a few neighborhoods receive most of the city’s solid waste, most of the other neighborhoods receive no waste at all. According to the model, the Gini coefficient of the city’s waste system is 0.89, considering all three streams (a Gini coefficient of 0 means total equality, while 1 means total inequality).6 If we consider only the commercial or only the C&D streams, the inequality is even higher, with a Gini coefficient of 0.91. One of the scenarios that allowed for the improvement of the 5 City of New York Department of Sanitation, “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report,” 40. 6 This calculation considers the tons of waste received per person per year in each Community District.

125

system’s equity was community composting. I considered a scenario where residential organics diversion rate is at a maximum of 31%, and where all organics are composted within community gardens and vacant lots within the district where they are generated. In this case, the Gini coefficient fell to 0.83, an improvement of 6 points from the current system. However, it is important to highlight that in this scenario the increase in equity was not so much due to considerable reduction of the waste received at overburdened districts. Brooklyn District 1 for example, achieved a reduction of only 4% in waste received. The gains in equity were mostly due to the fact that all other districts were receiving at least a few thousand tons of waste per year, thus reducing the inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient. Another important point is related to the fact that some districts have significantly more community gardens and vacant lots than others. Because of this, some districts ended up receiving less than 50 tons of organics per year in each composting site, while others received up to 5,000 tons. Of course, it is unlikely that a community garden could take such amount of organics, but this was the extreme case scenario where no residential organics were sent out of the city. Maximizing canning led to a similar increase in the waste system’s equity as to community composting. A “maximum local scenario” had the most impact on equity. In this scenario, canning and community composting were both maximized, as well as diversion rates. Residential waste was also assumed to always remain within the district where it was generated, even in the current absence of waste facilities in the district. In this case, the Gini coefficient fell to 0.70. In this scenario, most neighborhoods were handling at least 40,000 tons of waste per year. By combining this with 50% reductions in commercial and C&D waste, it was possible to reach a Gini coefficient of 0.58. Increased diversion rates for recyclables achieved minimal effects on equity. In fact, some districts such as Staten Island 2 and Brooklyn 7 ended up receiving more tons with increased recycling,


126

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

due to the fact that there are recycling facilities in their boundaries. However, higher recyclables diversion achieved significant gains in other metrics. In a maximum recycling scenario, savings for the city with were of more than $150 million a year, due to the reduction of waste export. Greenhouse gases were also reduced in more than 3.7 million tons of CO2 per year. The maximum diversion rate achievable was 78.1%, considering a maximum diversion of recyclables and organics in residences and businesses. This was the maximum rate considering the current material composition of these waste streams, i.e. only 78.1% of our waste can currently be composted or recycled. This did not account for possible future changes in our waste stream that may allow higher diversion rates, potentially through product bans or changes in consumption patterns. Waste reduction also presented gains, especially financial and environmental. Assuming a 20% reduction of waste generated through all waste streams, for example, could potentially save the city $60 million in waste export per year, and reduce the amount of miles travelled by collection trucks by 27 million.


Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


CURRENT SYSTEM

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


CURRENT SYSTEM

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


CURRENT SYSTEM

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


CURRENT SYSTEM

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


CURRENT SYSTEM

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


CURRENT SYSTEM

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


CURRENT SYSTEM WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH COMMUNITY DISTRICT PER YEAR

WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR

WASTE GENERATED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR


CURRENT SYSTEM WASTE DIVERTED (EXCLUDING C&D WASTE)

WASTE GENERATED PER YEAR

ENERGY AND EMISSIONS

TRUCK MILES TRAVELLED (IN-CITY COLLECTION)

MTCO2E

BTU


CURRENT SYSTEM WASTE EQUITY

CITY OF NEW YORK COSTS

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

CONTAINER RETURN Gini Index

n/a n/a

WASTE EXPORTED FROM NYC PER YEAR

n/a

JOB CREATION

n/a n/a n/a n/a


148

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

3.3. Visioning Workshop The scenario tool was intended to be used in workshops by specialists and stakeholders on waste issues in NYC. As part of this thesis, I designed and conducted a workshop with seven participants, titled “Visualizing Zero Waste: Building Scenarios For NYC’s Waste System.” These participants came from different areas and backgrounds, including city agencies, not-for-profits, small businesses, recycling companies, and urban planning. The idea behind the workshop was to build scenarios for NYC’s waste system, utilizing the tool I had designed. The workshop was based on the idea that scenarios can be used “to develop plausible but desirable futures and often use participatory processes that emphasize and build on stakeholder engagement.”7 The scenarios were not meant to be predictive of the future or to intrinsically reveal solutions – instead they were meant to inform and to serve as prompt for a discussion.8 Furthermore, this discussion sought to incorporate stakeholders’ knowledge, both professional and local. The workshop was framed around three main questions, which were presented to the participants at the beginning: 1. Can NYC ever be a Zero Waste city? 2. What would that look like? 3. How would we get there? The workshop was structured in the following way. First, participants introduced themselves and talked about their work with waste in NYC. Second, I presented the workshop structure, motivation, context and framing questions. Participants were then divided into groups of 2 or 3, and received a laptop computer with the tool, and a scenario prompt card. Participants then built scenarios using the scenario tool and following guidelines provided by the prompt cards. The prompt cards provided a graphical representation of a future scenario that I had pre-determined, with information such as the 7 Boone and Fragkias, “Connecting Environmental Justice, Sustainability, and Vulnerability,” 56. 8 For a discussion of data modeling pitfalls see Deahl, “Better the Data You Know.”

149

responsibility for achieving the scenario, its geographic scale, and its strategies to reach zero waste. The concept behind using these prompt cards was to get participants to explore future scenarios that were not necessarily constrained by their own preconceptions and expectations of NYC’s waste system. After using the tool to build scenarios, participants filled in an evaluation sheet individually about the scenario they had built. In this evaluation they combined insights obtained by using the tool as well as from their own experience with waste in NYC. The evaluation sheet also provided a space for participants to be critical of the current waste system as well as of the scenario prompts they had received. The final activity was a presentation by each group of their scenario, followed by a general discussion on NYC’s current waste system and its future. Since the tool was mostly focused on manipulating variables and metrics to create a specific scenario, the discussion was in turn mostly about the mechanisms and initiatives that would be necessary in order to get there. As Boone points out, one of the advantages of building future scenarios in this manner is that “Once that desirable future scenario is envisioned, it is possible to ‘backcast’ to the present in order to determine how to best move toward the desired future condition.”9 I will in this section describe the three different scenarios built by participants. I first describe the scenario prompt that they received. Then, I describe the scenario they built in response, highlighting information from the evaluation sheets they filled, from the variables they’ve manipulated using the tool, and from the metrics that they observed as a result.

9 Boone and Fragkias, “Connecting Environmental Justice, Sustainability, and Vulnerability,” 56.


150

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

151

“85% of NYC’s household trash is going straight to landfill – and that is insane.” Eadaoin Quinn

“We’ve built a society based on wastefulness – and we don’t want to spend money now to fix it.”

Education coordinator at Sims Municipal Recycling, which handles all DSNY-collected metal, glass, and plastic recyclables. Scenario Group: B

Brendan Sexton Chair of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board, a not-for-profit that promotes recycling, waste reduction and advancing solid waste policy in NYC. Former DSNY Commissioner. Scenario Group: A

“Trash is a matter of survival – we can’t go on if we don’t find solutions to it.”

Ana de Luco Co-founder of Sure We Can, a not-for-profit redemption center supporting canners in NYC. Scenario Group: C


152

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

“We should move away from the word ‘waste’ – it’s just materials that need to be sorted properly.”

153

“I am still surprised that people think there’s an ‘away’ for waste.”

Naama Tamir

Amanda Kaminsky

Owner of Lighthouse restaurant, promoting composting and recycling practices for businesses.

Founder of Building Product Ecosystems, promotes healthy construction materials and C&D recycling.

Scenario Group: C

Scenario Group: B

“There are essential services that need to be in New York, even while land value goes up.”

“I do canning also because I want to see things being reused and recycled.”

Adam Lubinsky

Eugene Gadsden

Managing Partner at WXY Studio, involved in sustainability projects in the NY region.

Co-founder of Sure We Can, a not-for-profit redemption center supporting canners in NYC.

Scenario Group: A

Scenario Group: C


154

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

Scenario A: Maximum Diversion at Regional Level The scenario card was inspired by the city’s Zero Waste goal and its strategies. It assumes that most of the responsibility for changing the system lies with the government; a progressive and linear change over time; a regional geographic scale for the waste system; and a strategy that is a mix between increasing composting and recycling. The participants attempted to build this scenario by maximizing recycling and organics diversion rates, both for publicly and privately collected material. They also assumed modest reductions of waste generation in all waste streams. They stipulated that community composting would take a small portion of the city’s organics and that canners would take about a fifth of the returnable containers. By utilizing the tool, participants were able to see some of the impacts of their scenario. First, they were able to increase the overall citywide diversion rate to 78.3%. Although this is not exactly “zero waste to landfills,” it is the maximum diversion possible considering current composition of the waste stream. Through increased diversion and some waste reduction, participants achieved a slightly more equitable distribution of waste through the city neighborhoods. Community Districts 1 in north Brooklyn and south Bronx had the highest reductions, of approximately half a million tons of waste received per year. Increased diversion also reduced costs for the city, particularly in waste export, with savings of about $180 million a year. Over 3,000 jobs would also be created in recycling and composting, and canning would increase opportunities for over 10,000 people. In their evaluation sheets, participants in this group pointed out that changes like these would require behavioral changes and increased enforcement. As issues of the current system, they highlighted low recycling and composting rates, as well as the concentration of transfer stations. Participants also pointed out that by using the tool they were surprised by some of its results, such as

155

the level of waste transfer station concentration, and the difference between waste generated and received at different neighborhoods. The tool also helped them confirm the potential of waste reduction as an important strategy to achieve zero waste. One of the main questions participants had after using this tool was how to actually achieve these changes in reality.

Scenario Card Waste Scenario for NYC:

Government

Change

Reduce

Local

Regional

Industry

Individuals & Communities

Long Distance

Time

Responsibility

Time Frame

Compost

Geographic Scale

Recycle

Strategy

Waste Scenario for NYC:

Variables Government

Change

Residential Diversion Industry

Local

Reduce

Commercial

C&D

Recyclables 33%

54%

Regional

n/a

Time Organics 31%

35%

Long Distance

Compost n/a

Individuals & Communities

Reduction Responsibility

10%

8%

Time Frame

Geographic Scale

Alternatives Community composting

7%

Canning

20%

Local resource centers

No

Recycle

9% Strategy


SCENARIO A: MAXIMUM DIVERSION


SCENARIO A: MAXIMUM DIVERSION

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


SCENARIO A: MAXIMUM DIVERSION

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


SCENARIO A: MAXIMUM DIVERSION WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH COMMUNITY DISTRICT PER YEAR

WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR

WASTE GENERATED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR


SCENARIO A: MAXIMUM DIVERSION WASTE DIVERTED (EXCLUDING C&D WASTE)

WASTE GENERATED PER YEAR

ENERGY AND EMISSIONS

TRUCK MILES TRAVELLED (IN-CITY COLLECTION)

MTCO2E

BTU


SCENARIO A: MAXIMUM DIVERSION WASTE EQUITY

CITY OF NEW YORK COSTS

CONTAINER RETURN Gini Index

WASTE EXPORTED FROM NYC PER YEAR

JOB CREATION


168

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

Scenario B: Personal, Local & Small-Scale This scenario card assumed a very localized strategy for dealing with waste. In it, the responsibility is mostly given to individuals and communities who would make great initial efforts to transform the system. The strategies to achieve this scenario as defined by the card are a mix of composting and reduction. In adjusting the variables for their scenario, participants assumed higher diversion rates for the residential and institutional stream than for the commercial stream. They also pursued very high rates of participation both in canning and community composting. In their scenario, these would handle all organics and containers from the residential and institutional stream within the city. They also assumed that local resource centers in each Community District would handle all residential waste locally. Finally, they assumed considerable reduction rates in the commercial and C&D streams. The rationale for this was that effects from individuals taking greater responsibility for their waste would carry over into other streams. Using the tool, participants observed great changes in waste distribution and equity in this scenario. Most overburdened districts had large reductions in the amount of waste received. They also generated thousands of opportunities in canning due to increased redemption rates. The overall city diversion rate achieved was of 56%. In their evaluation sheets, participants in this group pointed out how these changes would require a “societal shift in (how residents) relate to waste,” and an “evolved ethos (and) level of care.” They noted that this would also require the establishment of “small-scale, local recycling / compost infrastructure.” Some of the current issues that needed to be addressed according to them were low participation rates; lack of communication between different stakeholders; lack of infrastructure; misaligned incentives; and lack of accountability. Participants in this group pointed out how these changes by residents would carry over to other sectors

169

such as business and industry. The tool presented some information that surprised participants, such as the extent of the concentration of waste tonnage at transfer stations, especially in North Brooklyn and South Bronx. It also revealed how much of the waste tonnage comes from the construction and demolition stream. One of the questions participants had after using the tool was about compost processing capacity in the New York region, in order to take more organics due to a higher diversion rate that they established in their scenario.

Scenario Card Waste Scenario for NYC:

Government

Change

Reduce

Local

Regional

Industry

Individuals & Communities

Long Distance

Time

Responsibility

Time Frame

Compost

Geographic Scale

Recycle

Strategy

Waste Scenario for NYC:

Variables Government

Change

Local

Residential Diversion Industry

Reduce

Commercial

C&D

Recyclables 33%

25%

Regional

n/a

Time Organics 25%

12%

Long Distance

Compost n/a

Individuals & Communities

Reduction Responsibility

11%

20%

Time Frame

Geographic Scale

Alternatives Community composting

100%

Canning

100%

Local resource centers

Yes

Recycle

29%Strategy


SCENARIO B: PERSONAL & LOCAL


SCENARIO B: PERSONAL & LOCAL

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


SCENARIO B: PERSONAL & LOCAL

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


SCENARIO B: PERSONAL & LOCAL WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH COMMUNITY DISTRICT PER YEAR

WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR

WASTE GENERATED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR


SCENARIO B: PERSONAL & LOCAL WASTE DIVERTED (EXCLUDING C&D WASTE)

WASTE GENERATED PER YEAR

ENERGY AND EMISSIONS

TRUCK MILES TRAVELLED (IN-CITY COLLECTION)

MTCO2E

BTU


SCENARIO B: PERSONAL & LOCAL WASTE EQUITY

CITY OF NEW YORK COSTS

CONTAINER RETURN Gini Index

WASTE EXPORTED FROM NYC PER YEAR

JOB CREATION


182

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

Scenario C: On “Our Own Yard,” Waste no More The card provided initially to this group of participants presented a scenario where industry would take most responsibility for changing the waste system, along with some input from individuals and communities. It predicted an exponential change over time, with a geographic scale that was between regional and longdistance. The main strategy was assumed to be recycling. When participants received this scenario, they strongly disagreed with its assumptions. They decided to change it, assuming instead a scenario that was more localized, driven by individuals, communities, and the government, and that was focused on a mix of reduction, recycling and compost. Participants adjusted the variables in the tool to maximize diversion rates for all streams. They adopted localized strategies in community composting and canning, diverting almost all of the residential organics and containers to these. They also assumed ambitious reductions of 50% in waste generated across all waste streams. The tool indicated that this scenario would achieve great reductions in truck miles travelled in the city and GHG emissions. It would also generate significant savings for the city in waste export and collection, as well as a citywide diversion rate of 78.2%. In their evaluation, participants noted that this would require that residents take responsibility for their own waste, as well as greater enforcement by the government. They also pointed that this scenario would require “a new way of thinking about ‘trash’,” as well as inclusive participation. They pointed out current problems such as the fact that few people seem to care for waste; lack of infrastructure; and the expectation that the government will be able to deal with all the system’s issues. Participants pointed out that there are opportunities of connecting persons and organizations that are already dealing with these issues. The participants noted that the tool helped them confirm some issues that they were already aware of. Some of these were the lack

183

of recycling and composting; unequal distribution of waste; and excess of trucks trips. They also pointed out that they would like to see strategies to actually realize, for example by influencing policy.

Scenario Card Waste Scenario for NYC:

Government

Change

Reduce

Local

Regional

Industry

Individuals & Communities

Long Distance

Time

Responsibility

Time Frame

Compost

Geographic Scale

Recycle

Strategy

Waste Scenario for NYC:

Variables Government

Change

Local

Residential Diversion Industry

Reduce

Commercial

C&D

Recyclables 33%

54%

Regional

n/a

Time Organics 31%

35%

Long Distance

Compost n/a

Individuals & Communities

Reduction Responsibility

50%

50%

Time Frame

Geographic Scale

Alternatives Community composting

100%

Canning

85%

Local resource centers

No

Recycle

50%Strategy


SCENARIO C: OUR OWN YARD

185


SCENARIO C: OUR OWN YARD

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


SCENARIO C: OUR OWN YARD

Basemap: OpenStreetMap contributors, CartoDB


SCENARIO C: OUR OWN YARD WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH COMMUNITY DISTRICT PER YEAR

WASTE RECEIVED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR

WASTE GENERATED AT EACH BOROUGH PER YEAR


SCENARIO C: OUR OWN YARD WASTE DIVERTED (EXCLUDING C&D WASTE)

WASTE GENERATED PER YEAR

ENERGY AND EMISSIONS

TRUCK MILES TRAVELLED (IN-CITY COLLECTION)

MTCO2E

BTU


SCENARIO C: OUR OWN YARD WASTE EQUITY

CITY OF NEW YORK COSTS

CONTAINER RETURN Gini Index

WASTE EXPORTED FROM NYC PER YEAR

JOB CREATION


210

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

3.4. Conclusion After building the different scenarios in the visioning workshop, I conducted a discussion among the participants. This discussion revealed some of the benefits and limitations of the tool, and also provided insights on the challenges and opportunities for transforming NYC’s current waste system. It was also an interesting opportunity for the participants to see the points of convergence in their analyses and recommendations for the future of waste in the city. One of the recurring questions during the discussion was how to achieve the scenarios that were built using the tool. Most participants pointed out that while the tool provided interesting insights on the current waste system, its issues, and what could be achieved, it didn’t provide strategies on how to achieve a different system. Some participants suggested the inclusion of specific mechanisms in the tool, such as laws and policies that could be used to change the current system. Participants highlighted the importance of politics and political will in transforming this system, and some suggested that this should perhaps be captured in a variable.10 One of the points made about the importance of politics was related to how unpopular are any activities or infrastructure related to waste. Brendan Sexton pointed out that community composting hasn’t faced these challenges so far because their sites are usually not very large and are run by people within the community. However, according to him the main issue for scaling up any activity related to waste is not technical but instead political.11 A topic that was also discussed was the benefit of creating local 10 While I agree that implementing specific policies and that political changes will be necessary to transform the current scenario, I would argue against attempting to capture these in variables. The concept of the tool was to provide a way for stakeholders to visualize the impacts of specific changes to the current scenario. The idea was that the mechanisms and changes required to achieve these scenarios would be debated during the workshop session. Including something complex and difficult to define as political will in a variable would be I believe to oversimplify it. 11 Adam Lubinsky et al., Visualizing Zero Waste Workshop: Future Scenarios for New York City.

211

loops for discarded materials. Participants pointed out how if persons could notice the influence that their waste has on air quality, or if they were able to connect it with what they are consuming, then there would be potential for changing the way they deal with it and how the waste system operates. Participants also highlighted the need for cultural and behavioral changes in order to transform the waste system. A recurring theme was the need to change our conception of waste in order to be able to achieve zero waste. It was pointed out that even our terminology needed to be changed – “waste” is associated with conceptions of disposability, linear life-cycles, and undesirability. Participants suggested that we use another term, such as simply “materials” to describe what we currently call waste. Achieving zero waste would also mean that we would have to rethink our notion of waste, as was noted by participants. Naama Tamir is the owner of Lighthouse restaurant in Brooklyn and is involved in several initiatives such as local community composting in an attempt to create closed loops of materials in her business. She pointed out that “(waste) should be something of pride – we should change the way we look at it.” From Naama’s experience, a change in culture is necessary to change how way we deal with waste. In her restaurant, the kitchen staff became increasingly involved with composting after they started implementing it, even though it generated sometimes more work for them. According to her, this is related to the culture of the restaurant and to the fact that they constantly have discussions about why and how closing loops of materials is important. Other participants pointed out how the impacts of individuals taking more responsibility and being more attentive to their waste can carry over to other parts of the waste stream beyond the residential. Eadaoin Quinn noted that in a scenario where all individuals are taking greater responsibility for their waste we could assume that some of their actions will affect other areas, such as government and industry. Amanda Kaminsky, in discussing her group’s scenario, pointed out that an increased “level of responsibility (can) translate


212

3. Visualizing the Waste System and Its Future

213

to action at a broader scale.” Ana de Luco pointed out how urbanization had been a rapid process, in comparison to the development of agriculture and rural societies. According to her, one of the impacts of this is that we have not developed yet a “sustainable urban culture,” and that we’ve lost the capacity to manage our waste. Brendan Sexton added to this that we have sometimes designed our incapacity to deal with waste into the infrastructure of our society. For example, there are thousands of persons living in buildings owned by the New York City Housing Authority that have no room or infrastructure for source-separating materials for recycling. This brought him to the point that we’ve built a society that is based on wastefulness, and that we as a society are unwilling to spend money to address this issue. Brendan also pointed out that New York City currently spends very large quantities of money on waste export. Therefore, any strategy that can minimize the need for waste export is likely save the city money, offsetting the costs of implementing such strategy. These strategies could be focused on education, fostering community composting, or building infrastructure, to list some of the examples he described. Adam Lubinsky noted that the issues around waste illuminate other current issues faced by the city such as land use. He described the conflict in the city between increasingly higher residential land values and necessary services such as waste facilities. Conducting this workshop was a useful way to see some of the potentials and limitations that a scenario-building tool can have in supporting transformations in New York’s waste system. Participants were in general eager to explore the tool and to test different scenarios. I believe part of this is related to how difficult it is currently to obtain and visualize data on this system. Thus, making this data easily accessible and spatial was a positive aspect of the tool. This helped participants to confirm previous knowledge on certain areas of the waste system and to discover other aspects of this system that were unknown to them.

About half of the participants felt constrained by the scenarios they were given. I believe that this is not necessarily a negative outcome. Those who felt constrained included in their evaluation and in the discussion the reasons why such scenarios did not appeal to them. Other participants decided to change the scenario card they were given, which I believe was also an interesting exercise in critiquing a future scenario while proposing an alternative. For me, the most interesting aspect of the workshop was being able to find points of convergence between different stakeholders. These stakeholders have various different backgrounds and are involved in different initiatives addressing the issues of waste. I believe the use of the model and the general structure of the workshop was helpful in highlighting these convergences through the exercise of building a future zero waste scenario for New York City.


215

4. Challenges and Recommendations

In this last chapter I point out some of the challenges that I believe New York City must face to achieve a zero waste future. I also make recommendations for changing the current waste system by building on my analysis, on the use of the scenario-building tool I have designed, and on insights from the scenario-building workshop I have conducted. These recommendations are in the areas of privately collected waste, disposal, and data collection. I also make suggestions on how to incorporate alternatives to the current waste system and the reasons for doing so. In the end, I argue for an expanded definition of zero waste considering its challenges and potentials for New York City. 4.1. Privately collected Waste Addressing issues in privately collected waste is fundamental in order to achieve a zero waste New York City. This waste stream, comprised of the commercial and C&D waste, accounts for 75% of the total waste tonnage generated in NYC. It also accounts for 93% of the collection truck miles travelled within the city. Private trucks are also older and much more polluting than the city’s collection trucks, adding to the importance of addressing this waste stream. The geographic concentration of commercial and C&D waste consolidation in the city is even greater than that of residential waste. For example, Community District 1 of Brooklyn, the most overburdened in the city, receives in its transfer stations 12% of the publicly collected waste stream, totaling 365,000 tons per year, and 25.1% of the privately collected waste stream, totaling 2,510,000 tons per year. Commercial waste also has a high potential for increased diversion. Its current diversion rate of approximately 28% could potentially increase to 54%, considering its current material composition. This could mean a reduction of almost 2 million tons of CO2 emitted per year.1 It could also mean the creation of more than 2,000 jobs, just in recycling sorting. Considering the potential for impact in the commercial and 1 Figure calculated using the EPA WARM model.


216

4. Challenges and Recommendations

217

C&D streams, I believe that New York City should direct more of its efforts in changing how private waste operates in the city. Although OneNYC’s includes the goal of achieving 90% diversion of commercial waste, I believe the plan’s supporting initiatives do not present a clear path on how to achieve this rate. A franchising system, such as being discussed in the City Council’s Committee on Sanitation and in the OneNYC plan would be one way to improve the private waste sector, given some considerations. One of the main direct benefits of franchising would be generating more efficient routes. However, franchising is unlikely to directly affect diversion rates from businesses, unless specific requirements or incentives are included in the franchising process. These requirements could mandate haulers to achieve a specific waste diversion target, such as Los Angeles has specified in its franchising plan.2 Another option could be to create financial incentives for haulers to reach diversion targets, as has been done in San José, California.3 A successful franchising system should incorporate targets for increased diversion rates as well as requirements for the use of less polluting trucks. Diversion rates could be enforced through the use of onboard truck scales, and routes through the use of GPS equipment. Both could be required to be installed on trucks as part of franchising agreements. Opponents of the franchising policy are mostly from the private waste collection industry, and argue that such policy would amount to a “monopoly” that would increase prices by reducing competitiveness.4 However, many businesses currently consider private waste collection prices to be high and the service provided of low quality.5 Furthermore the fragmentation of NYC’s waste

collection and disposal into hundreds of companies has generated much of the inefficiencies that we observe in today’s system. The city of San Francisco has shown some of the benefits of a more centralized approach to waste management. San Francisco’s entire waste system is under the responsibility of the company Recology, who runs it through a no-bid contract. In June 2012, a proposition that aimed to require competitive bidding for garbage collection in the city was defeated with over 76% of 139,545 votes.6 Recology’s campaign against this proposition focused on the slogan “Don’t mess with success.” In 2010, San Francisco had a diversion rate of 77%.7 I also believe that a successful franchising agreement in NYC would have to go beyond just increasing diversion rates in order to address the concentration of waste infrastructure. A scenario where the city is able to maximize the diversion of recyclables for commercial waste through franchising, but allows haulers to use any transfer station in the city would not generate much improvement in terms of equity. My modeling indicates that Community District Bronx 1 for example would likely see a 15% reduction of waste received in such scenario, assuming that the pattern of transfer station use remains the same; however Staten Island District 2 could see a 17% increase in tonnage. A maximized waste diversion thus would send the diverted material to neighborhoods where there are more facilities handling recyclables. This does not negate the equity benefits that can be created by having more efficient truck routes. However, in order to achieve more a more equitable system, I believe the city should not only franchise collection zones but also wastesheds for privately collected waste, i.e. zones where the waste can be tipped-off at transfer stations or recycling facilities. This would help increase the efficiency of routes and could also reduce the concentration of waste in overburdened neighborhoods.

2 California State Assembly, “Assembly Bill No. 341 – Solid Waste: Diversion”; County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, “Frequently Asked Questions: Non-Exclusive Commercial Solid Waste Collection Franchise.” 3 US EPA, “Less Waste Case Study.” 4 “Op-Ed: Monopolies Would Make a Mess of Garbage Carting in New York City | Crain’s New York Business.” 5 Transform Don’t Trash NYC, “Not At Your Service: A Look at How New York City’s Commercial Waste System Is Failing Its Small Businesses.”

6 “San Francisco Competitive Bidding Required for Garbage Collection and Disposal, Proposition A (June 2012) - Ballotpedia.” 7 Alex and Pouchard, “San Francisco Closer to Turning Zero-Waste Ambition into Reality.”


218

4. Challenges and Recommendations

219

I believe that the City of New York should push more aggressively for changes in the private waste industry in the city. The Zero Waste goal should bring the importance of addressing this waste stream to the forefront. The San Francisco case shows the importance of including all streams in a zero waste strategy, as well as striving for an efficient system in order to gain support from residents.

should be made to the amount of waste delivered at other transfer stations in the Community District in order to balance the increase in waste received at the anaerobic digester. I also believe the City of New York should take a clear stance on waste incineration. This is a highly controversial disposal strategy that has proven to be extremely unpopular in the city.8 Perhaps the unpopularity of incineration explains why it is not mentioned in the OneNYC plan. However, the city continues to utilize incineration as a disposal strategy, as evidenced by its ongoing disposal of Manhattan’s waste at the Covanta incinerator in New Jersey, as well as by its recent $2.88 billion, 20-year contract with Covanta for waste export to incinerators in Niagara Falls, NY and Chester, PA. Considering how controversial incineration is, I believe a few important arguments should be taken into account when debating its use as a waste disposal strategy. The first one is the concept of the “waste management hierarchy.” In this approach, reduction and reuse are considered as prime strategies for dealing with waste, followed by recycling and composting, and only then followed by incineration.9 Secondly, there is the potential for incineration to conflict with the strategies that are above it in the hierarchy, namely reduction, reuse, and recycling. As municipalities enter into contracts with private companies for waste incineration, they are many times locked into “put-or-pay” agreements, in which they must provide a minimum amount of waste or monetary compensation to incinerators. This is the case of New York City’s latest contract with Covanta.10 This creates a conflict with higher strategies that would reduce the amount of waste sent to incinerators. Finally, given the lack of consensus on the environmental and health impacts of incineration, I believe that this is a good case for

4.2. Disposal The current waste system is costly for the city government, with DSNY spending approximately $675 million per year on collection and $360 million on waste export. It is important however to differentiate these two expenses. While collection creates wellpaid local jobs, money spent on waste export is mostly directed to companies that operate incinerators and landfills in other cities and states. In addition, the long-distance export of waste generates GHG emissions and air pollution that could be avoided by seeking other strategies for waste disposal. One of these strategies is composting of organics in the New York region, which the city is currently pursuing for its curbside collected organics. As organics collection is scaled up in the city, it is important that its processing remains in the region, in order to avoid similar issues of truck emissions such as the ones generated by long-distance export to landfills. Another alternative being considered in the Zero Waste goal is anaerobic digestion at the Newtown Creek sewage treatment plant. On one hand, this is a positive alternative because it can reduce the need for out-of-city export of organics. However, care must be taken in order not to further overburden the neighborhoods around the sewage treatment plant with additional truck traffic. Brooklyn Community District 1 (BK01), in which the Newtown Creek treatment plant is located, currently receives around 22% of all the city’s waste, totaling about 2.87 millions tons per year. If the anaerobic digesters at the plant were used at the proposed capacity of 500 tons per day, this would increase the amount of waste received in the BK01 by more than 17%. Therefore, concomitant reductions

8 Gandy, Concrete and Clay. 9 US EPA, “Sustainable Materials Management.” 10 City of New York and Covanta 4Recovery L.P., “Service Contract For Municipal Solid Waste Management, Transportation And Disposal (North Shore Marine Transfer Station And East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station) Between The City Of New York, New York And Covanta 4Recovery, L.P.”


220

4. Challenges and Recommendations

221

the application of the “precautionary principle.” The precautionary principle is widely used in environmental science, and is based around the following central components:

by DSNY or DEC in order to provide accurate and continuous data reporting. This model is already utilized at Sims, the city contracted recyclables handling facility. Even if these data collection models are not feasible to be implemented at the moment, a low-cost online system for data reporting would already represent great progress in comparison to current practices. Data is fundamental to assess how the city is doing in relation to a goal. The multiple studies commissioned by DSNY over the past two decades have shown how necessary data is in trying to change the waste system. In addition, better data collection practices should be coupled with an open data strategy.14 This has the potential to increase accountability, participation, and efficiency in the solid waste industry in New York City.

“(…) taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty; shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity; exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions; and increasing public participation in decision making.”11

I believe New York City should include in its Zero Waste goals the consideration that incineration is not a valid zero waste strategy. The city could add to the goal the commitment not to increase incineration rates in the future and to search for alternatives to it. 4.3. Data Collection Practices There is a need for more and better data with regard to solid waste in New York City. This is a concern in solid waste management that goes back to at least 1989.12 The lack of data is especially evident in the private waste industry, which as I’ve pointed out before, is the most critical waste stream to be addressed in the city. Current data mostly comes from NYSDEC Solid Waste Management Facilities Annual Reports. These are self-reported, paper-based, often filled in by hand, and many times incomplete. DSNY also requires putrescible waste transfer stations in the city to file in quarterly reports. These reports are also paper-based.13 The city should collaborate with the state’s DEC in order to improve their data collection practices. This is essential in increasing accountability and measuring progress in diversion rates, especially for privately collected waste. Two models could be used for better data collection. The first has been described before and utilizes trucks with onboard scales and GPS to measure weights during collection and tipping. The second is truck scales located at transfer stations and other waste facilities. These scales can be directly connected to a database run 11 Kriebel et al., “The Precautionary Principle in Environmental Science.” 12 US EPA, “The Solid Waste Dilemma: An Agenda for Action.” 13 City of New York, “Sustainability and Solid Waste: Doubling NYC’s Diversion Rate by 2017.”

4.4. Incorporating Alternatives The strategies pointed above address many of the current issues of NYC’s waste system. They have limited impact, however, on issues of equity related to the distribution of waste infrastructure in the city. In this respect I believe that the two alternatives analyzed, canning and community composting, can provide a starting point for a more equitable waste system in the city. Both alternatives can do so by changing our relationship with waste and by creating more localized systems of waste handling. The benefits of community composting have been recognized by current and past city administrations in NYC. The discourse is usually that community composting is a good educational tool, but that it cannot divert a significant amount of organics from the city’s waste stream. I believe however that any quantities of waste diverted to community composting are beneficial when compared to other alternatives, such as landfilling, incineration, or even composting at larger facilities in the New York region. 14 For benefits and critiques of open data, see: Janssen, “Open Government Data: Right to Information 2.0 or Its Rollback Version?”; Kitchin, “Four Critiques of Open Data Initiatives”; Davies, “Open Data, Democracy and Public Sector Reform: A Look at Open Government Data Use from Data.gov. uk.”


222

4. Challenges and Recommendations

223

This is the case in NYC since sending organics to facilities outside of the city would mean sending more trucks carrying organics to transfer stations in overburdened neighborhoods, unless there is substantial change in how the waste system currently operates. I believe community gardens can help facilitate this change by transforming how we think about waste. One of the most important benefits of community composting, besides bypassing the waste export problem, is that it helps residents rethink their notions of waste. If a more equitable waste system also means a more distributed one, where each resident is closer to his or her own waste, then rethinking waste becomes fundamental in achieving this distribution. As Brendan Sexton pointed out during the workshop I conducted, the issue of siting waste infrastructure is political and highly unpopular.15 In other words, it is a NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) issue. Only by recasting the notion of waste as a resource will it be possible to change this dilemma, and I believe organic waste has currently the greatest potential for this transformation. This would also mean redefining certain facilities such as transfer stations and incinerators as NIABY (“Not In Anyone’s Backyard”) and defining which are the facilities that communities would like in their backyards, such as community gardens.16 The other alternative that has demonstrated how to create more distributed waste systems and how to rethink waste is canning. Because canners work on foot, their radius of operation is intrinsically local. They also depend on the existence of redemption centers where they can return their containers near where they collect them. Canning also presents a way to rethink waste as a resource. In fact, for canners waste is where they obtain income. Of course, canning is not a panacea that can substitute municipal recycling in New York City. Canners only collect the containers that can be returned for a refund, which are less than

3% of our residential waste stream. But canning indicates the way into a strategy that combines more localized systems of recovering materials with extended producer responsibility, in this case by taking full advantage of the existing New York State Bottle Bill. Extended producer responsibility is a powerful mechanism in attempting to achieve zero waste, one that I believe should be further utilized by the city, as it can redirect some of the costs related to disposal to producers. Finally, both canning and community composting are interesting models for zero waste because they transform the need for dealing with waste into an activity that generates social benefits and wealth. Canning not only generates income but also provides an occupation for persons who may not be able to find other work. Ana de Luco, founder of the not-for-profit Sure We Can, has observed the health and psychological benefits of canning during the 9 years that she has worked with canners.17 Community composting also provides social benefits by associating open green spaces with a productive use and community engagement. Community composting can also foster networks of collaboration and resource sharing between residents, organizations, and businesses. For example, Sure We Can is currently partnering with local businesses in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to provide organics collection and composting for them. Lighthouse restaurant, owned by Naama Tamir, is one of Sure We Can’s first partners in this initiative. By doing so, Sure We Can is not only providing local businesses with opportunities to keep their waste locally, but is also providing more work opportunities to canners, especially during winter when canning becomes more difficult. I believe these alternatives are two good examples of ways in which the current waste system can be transformed while addressing environmental, social, and financial issues. They also present a strategy to deal with the pressing issue of waste equity and provide a new framework on how to handle and define waste in NYC.

15 Adam Lubinsky et al., Visualizing Zero Waste Workshop: Future Scenarios for New York City. 16 For an extended discussion on this issue see Lake, “Planners’ Alchemy Transforming NIMBY to YIMBY.”

17 Ana de Luco, Personal Interview With Ana de Luco.


224

4. Challenges and Recommendations

4.5. Conclusion: Expanding Zero Waste Zero waste can be a powerful strategy for changing the way our waste systems operate, and in the process transforming the way societies deal with waste – something as large as changing one of the basic aspects of our material culture. But this transformation will depend on a strong definition of what zero waste means. As Samantha MacBride puts it, “solutions to solid-waste problems today are not achieving outcomes in a materially meaningful way” and “what are needed are more and different solutions that go beyond collecting bottles, cans, and papers in cities.”18 If the zero waste perspective in New York City adopts a narrow focus on diversion from landfills, then it might end up accepting strategies such as waste incineration as an alternative. The risk is that the zero waste movement may “inadvertently open the door to powerful actors within business or the state to act strategically to foster solutions they like in place of those they don’t.”19 This why I believe it is fundamental for the City of New York to use its Zero Waste goal in order clearly to move away from incineration, for example. At the same time, a narrow focus on waste diversion metrics can lead to the restriction of more significant social initiatives. An example of this is the city government’s criminalization discourse against canners, on the basis that their activity makes it more difficult for the city to track diversion rates. Being focused only on the metric of diversion, the City is ignoring more important social benefits, such as providing a productive activity, health benefits, income, and a sense of community for canners, as I have evidenced in the work of Sure We Can. The other argument used by the City against canning is that curbside trash is City property. This fails to recognize the shared value that exists in discarded materials. New Yorkers have long recognized this value, as evidenced in the widespread practice of leaving discarded items on sidewalks for reuse, such as books 18 MacBride, Recycling Reconsidered, 11. 19 Ibid.

225

and furniture. I believe New York City should not rely on weak definitions of zero waste that narrowly focused on simple metrics. I have shown in this thesis how increased diversion rates will not necessarily address the equity issue of how our waste is distributed within the city or outside of the city. Using a geographic model was important to prove this point. Equally or more important was discussing these issues with stakeholders who are on the ground trying to change this system. My aim was that using this model would provide them with geospatial, data-based arguments that can be used to advocate for changing New York City’s waste system. The other goal was that this would enable different stakeholders to find points of convergence and work together for these transformations. I believe NYC should include a social perspective in its definition of zero waste, one that is focused on the social value of practices that deal with discarded materials. The city should lead by addressing equity, social justice, environmental justice, and wealth sharing and distribution through an expanded definition of zero waste. This task will be daunting, and it will entail nothing more than a redefinition of what we perceive as “waste.” Alternative practices in the city have begun to lead the way on this path – we should recognize their value and work together for a more equitable zero waste future.


227

Bibliography

Adam Lubinsky, Amanda Kaminsky, Ana de Luco, Brendan Sexton, Eadaoin Quinn, Eugene Gadsden, and Naama Tamir. Visualizing Zero Waste Workshop: Future Scenarios for New York City, April 12, 2016. Alex, and re Pouchard. “San Francisco Closer to Turning Zero-Waste Ambition into Reality.” The Guardian, June 17, 2014, sec. Environment. http:// www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/17/san-francisco-zerowaste-recycling-composting. Ana de Luco. Personal Interview With Ana de Luco, February 18, 2016. Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “In the Matter of the Application of COVANTA ENERGY CORPORATION For Modification of the List of Eligible Resources Included in the New York Main Tier Renewable Portfolio Standard Program to Include Energy From Waste (EfW) Technology,” August 19, 20111. http://votegreenvi.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/ OAGcommentsonCovantapetitionAugust2011.pdf. Baruch College Center For Nonprofit Strategy and Management. “Solid Waste Management And Environmental Justice: Building And Sustaining Coalitions,” January 2011. https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/spa/centersand-institutes/center-for-nonprofit-strategy-and-management/ documents/SolidWaste-student.pdf. Boone, Christopher G., and Michail Fragkias. “Connecting Environmental Justice, Sustainability, and Vulnerability.” In Urbanization and Sustainability, 49–59. Human-Environment Interactions 3. Springer Netherlands, 2013. http://link.springer.com/ chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-5666-3_4. ———. Urbanization and Sustainability: Linking Urban Ecology, Environmental Justice and Global Environmental Change. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. “BottleBill.org - Bottle Bills Reduce Waste.” Accessed April 21, 2016. http:// www.bottlebill.org/about/benefits/waste.htm. “BottleBill.org - What Is a Bottle Bill?” Accessed April 21, 2016. http://www. bottlebill.org/about/whatis.htm. Butterfield, Fox. “Cans, a Man, a Plan: New Redemption Center Struggles.” The New York Times, November 4, 1987, sec. N.Y. / Region. http:// www.nytimes.com/1987/11/04/nyregion/cans-a-man-a-plan-newredemption-center-struggles.html. Byars, Steven A. “Single-Stream Versus Dual Stream Recycling Management: Do the Benefits Justify the Means?,” October 17, 2012. http:// waste360.com/recycling-facilities-mrfs/single-stream-versus-dualstream-recycling-management-do-benefits-justify-. California State Assembly. “Assembly Bill No. 341 – Solid Waste: Diversion,” 2012 2011. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient. xhtml?bill_id=201120120AB341. Citizens Budget Comission. “12 Things New Yorkers Should Know About Their Garbage,” May 2014. ———. “Taxes In, Garbage Out: The Need for Better Solid Waste Disposal Policies in New York City,” May 2012. http://www.cbcny.org/sites/


228

Bibliography

229

default/files/REPORT_SolidWaste_053312012.pdf. City of New York. “Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions, November 2014.” New York: Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, 2014. ———. “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York – Update April 2011,” 2011. http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc/downloads/pdf/publications/ planyc_2011_planyc_full_report.pdf. ———. “Rules of the City of New York, Section 4-38: Interim Siting Restrictions for New or Expanded Putrescible Solid Waste Transfer Stations,” 2004. http://rules.cityofnewyork.us/content/section-4-38interim-siting-restrictions-new-or-expanded-putrescible-solid-wastetransfer. ———. Rules of the City of New York, Section 16-116: Removal Of Commercial Waste; Posting Of Sign, Registration Number, 2006. http://law.justia. com/codes/new-york/2006/new-york-city-administrative-code-new/ adc016-116_16-116.html. ———. “Sustainability and Solid Waste: Doubling NYC’s Diversion Rate by 2017.” March 11, 2013. http://www.waste.exposed/files/planyc2013. pdf. City of New York, and Covanta 4Recovery L.P. “Service Contract For Municipal Solid Waste Management, Transportation And Disposal (North Shore Marine Transfer Station And East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station) Between The City Of New York, New York And Covanta 4Recovery, L.P.,” July 3, 2013. http://www.energyjustice.net/ files/incineration/covanta/NYC-Covanta-contract.pdf. City of New York Department of Sanitation. “2014 NYC Community Composting Report,” January 2015. ———. “2015 NYC Organics Collection Report,” October 2015. http:// www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/downloads/pdf/studies-and-reports/ OrganicsCollection-LL77-NYCOrganicsCollectionReport-2015.pdf. ———. “Commercial Waste Management Study, Vol.1: Private Transfer Station Evaluations,” March 2004. ———. “Commercial Waste Management Study, Vol. 2: Commercial Waste Generation and Projections.” New York, N.Y., March 2004. http:// www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/docs/about_v2-cwgp_0815.pdf. ———. “Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan.” New York, NY, September 2006. ———. “New York City Commercial Solid Waste Study and Analysis Summary Report,” 2012. ———. “New York City Public Space Recycling Pilot Program,” September 2007. http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/docs/about_2007-publicspace-recycling-pilot_0815.pdf. ———. “NYC Waste Characterization Study: Final Report, Volume 1,” 2004. ———. “Processing and Marketing Recyclables in New York City: Rethinking Economic, Historical, and Comparative Assumptions,” 2004. ———. “Report on the Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget and the Fiscal 2015 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report,” March 25, 2015. http://

council.nyc.gov/html/budget/2016/Pre/dos.pdf. City of New York Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City (OneNYC), 2015. City of New York Office of the Comptroller. “No Room To Move: New York City’s Impending Solid Waste Crisis.” New York, NY, October 2004. https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/Oct0604_No-room-to-move.pdf. Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Earth Engineering Center, Urban Habitat, and Project at the Center for Urban Research and Policy. “Life After Fresh Kills: Moving Beyond New York City’s Current Waste Management Plan.” New York, NY: Columbia University, December 1, 2001. County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works. “Frequently Asked Questions: Non-Exclusive Commercial Solid Waste Collection Franchise,” n.d. https://dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/swims/TrashCollection/ docs/waste-com/FAQ/FAQ%20Waste%20Haulers.pdf. Daniel C. Walsh. “Reconnaissance Mapping of Landfills in New York City.” National Ground Water Association, n.d. https://info.ngwa.org/ GWOL/pdf/910155209.PDF. Davies, Tim. “Open Data, Democracy and Public Sector Reform: A Look at Open Government Data Use from Data.gov.uk.” MSc, University of Oxford, 2010. Deahl, Erica Sachiyo. “Better the Data You Know: Developing Youth Data Literacy in Schools and Informal Learning Environments.” SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, May 9, 2014. http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2445621. “De Blasio Administration Bans Single-Use Styrofoam Products in New York City Beginning July 1, 2015.” The Official Website of the City of New York, January 8, 2015. /office-of-the-mayor/news/016-15/de-blasioadministration-bans-single-use-styrofoam-products-new-york-citybeginning-july-1-2015. Department of Environment and Conservation. “NYSDEC FTP Page.” Accessed April 30, 2016. ftp://ftp.dec.ny.gov/dshm/SWMF/. “DSNY Monthly Tonnage Data.” NYC Open Data. Accessed April 20, 2016. https://data.cityofnewyork.us/City-Government/DSNY-MonthlyTonnage-Data/ebb7-mvp5. “DSNY’s Refuse and Recycling Disposal Networks.” NYC Open Data. Accessed April 20, 2016. https://data.cityofnewyork.us/City-Government/ DSNY-s-Refuse-and-Recycling-Disposal-Networks/et4s-fcrp. Emma Withford. “NYC Commercial Sanitation Workers Say There’s ‘Virtually No Recycling.’” Gothamist, April 29, 2015. http://gothamist. com/2015/04/29/commercial_waste_nyc.php. GAIA. “Incinerators: Myths vs. Facts about ‘Waste to Energy,’” February 2015. http://www.no-burn.org/downloads/Incinerator_Myths_vs_Facts%20 Feb2012.pdf. Gandy, Matthew. Concrete and Clay: Reworking Nature in New York City. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2003.


230

Bibliography

231

Grosse, François. “Is recycling ‘part of the solution’? The role of recycling in an expanding society and a world of finite resources.” S.A.P.I.EN.S. Surveys and Perspectives Integrating Environment and Society, no. 3.1 (February 4, 2010). https://sapiens.revues.org/906. ICLEI–Local Governments for Sustainability USA. “The Process Behind PlaNYC: How the City of New York Developed Its Comprehensive Long-Term Sustainability Plan,” April 2010. ICS New York University. “South Bronx Environmental Health and Policy Study,” April 2009. http://www.icisnyu.org/south_bronx/admin/files/ NYUWagnerPhaseVIreport.pdf. IPCC. Climate Change 2007 - The Physical Science Basis: Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC. Cambridge University Press, 2007. Janssen, Katleen. “Open Government Data: Right to Information 2.0 or Its Rollback Version?” Journal of Community Informatics, no. Working Paper (August 2012). http://ssrn.com/abstract=2152566. “Judge Overturns NYC’s EPS Ban | Plastics News.” Accessed April 19, 2016. http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20150922/NEWS/150929975/ judge-overturns-nycs-eps-ban. Kilgannon, Corey. “A ‘Street Nun’ Who Specializes in Redemption.” The New York Times, June 19, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/ nyregion/a-street-nun-who-specializes-in-redemption.html. Kitchin, Rob. “Four Critiques of Open Data Initiatives.” Impact of Social Sciences. Accessed November 28, 2015. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/ impactofsocialsciences/2013/11/27/four-critiques-of-open-datainitiatives/. Krevitz, Ellyn. “Not in My Landfill: Virginia and the Politics of Waste Importation.” Policy Perspectives 7, no. 2 (May 5, 2009). doi:10.4079/ pp.v7i2.4215. Kriebel, D, J Tickner, P Epstein, J Lemons, R Levins, E L Loechler, M Quinn, R Rudel, T Schettler, and M Stoto. “The Precautionary Principle in Environmental Science.” Environmental Health Perspectives 109, no. 9 (September 2001): 871–76. Lake, Robert W. “Planners’ Alchemy Transforming NIMBY to YIMBY: Rethinking NIMBY.” Journal of the American Planning Association 59, no. 1 (1993): 87–93. Lantz, Daniel, and Clarissa Morawski. “The Battle for Recycling,” n.d. “Local Law 56 of 2013 (Administrative Code of The City of New York, § 16-118 and 16-464).” Accessed April 18, 2016. https://rules. cityofnewyork.us/tags/local-law-56-2013. Louis, Garrick E. “A Historical Context of Municipal Solid Waste Management in the United States.” Waste Management & Research: The Journal of the International Solid Wastes and Public Cleansing Association, ISWA 22, no. 4 (August 2004): 306–22. MacBride, Samantha. Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States. MIT Press, 2011. Marcotullio, Peter J., and William Solecki. “What Is a City? An Essential

Definition for Sustainability.” In Urbanization and Sustainability, edited by Christopher G. Boone and Michail Fragkias, 11–25. Human-Environment Interactions 3. Springer Netherlands, 2013. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-5666-3_2. McCarthy, Michael. “Using Models to Compare the Ecology of Cities.” In Ecology of Cities and Towns. Cambridge University Press, 2009. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511609763.008. Miller, Benjamin. “Fat of the Land: New York’s Waste.” Social Research 65, no. 1 (1998): 75–99. M.J. Bradley & Associates LLC. “New York City Commercial Refuse Truck Age-out Analysis,” September 2013. http://www.edf.org/sites/default/ files/EDF-BIC%20Refuse%20Truck%20Analysis%20092713.pdf. Mueller, Benjamin. “Judge Strikes Down New York City’s Ban on Foam Food Containers.” The New York Times, September 22, 2015. http://www. nytimes.com/2015/09/23/nyregion/judge-strikes-down-new-yorkcitys-ban-on-foam-food-containers.html. Nagle, Robin. Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. Navarro, Mireya. “On Recycling, N.Y.C. Goes From Leader to Laggard.” The New York Times, October 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes. com/2011/10/23/nyregion/on-recycling-nyc-goes-from-leader-tolaggard.html. New York City Comptroller. “Checkbook NYC.” Accessed April 26, 2016. http://www.checkbooknyc.com/spending_landing/yeartype/B/ year/117. “New York City Recycling Law”, Local Law No. 19 of 1989 (Administrative Code of The City of New York, § 16-301 et Seq.). Adminstrative Code of The City of New York, 1989. http://72.45.128.254/nyc/adcode/ Title16C3_16-301.asp. New York Supreme Court. “In Re Application Of Neighbors Against Garbage V Doherty,” December 9, 1997. ———. “Matter of Jamaica Recycling Corp. v City of New York.” New York State Law Reporting Bureau, January 11, 2006. http://law.justia.com/ cases/new-york/other-courts/2006/2006-26007.html. Nir, Sarah Maslin. “New York City Fights Scavengers Over a Treasure: Trash.” The New York Times, March 20, 2016. http://www.nytimes. com/2016/03/21/nyregion/new-york-city-fights-scavengers-over-atreasure-trash.html. “NYCdata: Number of Households - By Income Range.” Accessed April 19, 2016. http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/nycdata/income-taxes/hhold_ income-numbers.htm. Office of Management and Budget. “NYC Open Data Portal: Expense All Funds.” NYC Open Data. Accessed April 26, 2016. https://data. cityofnewyork.us/City-Government/Expense-All-Funds/am45-6syq. “Op-Ed: Monopolies Would Make a Mess of Garbage Carting in New York City | Crain’s New York Business.” Accessed May 2, 2016. http://


232

Bibliography

233

www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160302/OPINION/160229932/ monopolies-would-make-a-mess-of-garbage-carting-in-the-city. Pledge 2 Protect. “Talking Trash: A Modern Approach That Protects Communities, Increases Recycling And Reduces Costs,” 2014. http:// www.pledge2protectnyc.org/P2P_report-talking_trash.pdf. Rimer, Sara. “Can Picker: $35 a Shift, No Benefits, No Bosses.” The New York Times, September 6, 1989, sec. N.Y. / Region. http://www.nytimes. com/1989/09/06/nyregion/can-picker-35-a-shift-no-benefits-nobosses.html. Rogers, Heather. Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. The New Press, 2006. Rohde, David. “A Victory, Perhaps Brief, On Garbage.” The New York Times, April 13, 1997, sec. N.Y. / Region. http://www.nytimes. com/1997/04/13/nyregion/a-victory-perhaps-brief-on-garbage.html. “San Francisco Competitive Bidding Required for Garbage Collection and Disposal, Proposition A (June 2012) - Ballotpedia.” Accessed May 2, 2016. https://ballotpedia.org/San_Francisco_Competitive_Bidding_ Required_for_Garbage_Collection_and_Disposal,_Proposition_A_ (June_2012). SCGH. “Styrofoam: The Eco-Enemy.” SCGH, June 4, 2010. http://www.scgh. com/featured/pop-goes-the-polystyrene/. Smith, Stacey Vanek. “How The Price Of Oil Caused A Downturn In The Recycling Business.” NPR.org, April 3, 2015. http://www. npr.org/2015/04/03/397213109/how-the-price-of-oil-caused-adownturn-in-the-recycling-business. Steinberg, Ted. Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. Simon and Schuster, 2015. Strasser, Susan. Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash. 1st edition. New York, N.Y.: Holt Paperbacks, 2000. Sure We Can. “Sure We Can: Redemption.” Sure We Can. Accessed April 21, 2016. http://www.surewecan.org/redemption/. Taylor, Kate. “Waste-Transfer Station in Manhattan Is Approved.” The New York Times, July 22, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/23/ nyregion/east-river-trash-project-receives-federal-permit.html. Tellus Institute with Sound Resource Management. “More Jobs, Less Pollution - Growing the Recycling Economy in the US,” 2011. http://www. tellus.org/pub/More%20Jobs,%20Less%20Pollution%20-%20 Growing%20the%20Recycling%20Economy%20in%20the%20US. pdf. “The Power Behind Disposability: Why New York City’s Ban on Polystyrene Was Vilified, Sued, and Reversed.” Discard Studies, September 29, 2015. https://discardstudies.com/2015/09/29/the-power-behinddisposability-why-new-york-citys-ban-on-polystyrene-was-vilifiedsued-and-reversed/. Thompson, Michael. Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value. Oxford University Press, 1979. Transform Don’t Trash NYC. “Dirty Wasteful & Unsustainable: The Urgent

Need to Reform New York City’s Commercial Waste System,” April 2015. ———. “How to Increase Good Jobs, Recycling, and Justice in the Commercial Waste Industry,” September 2013. ———. “Not At Your Service: A Look at How New York City’s Commercial Waste System Is Failing Its Small Businesses,” October 2015. http:// transformdonttrashnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/TDTSmall-Business-Report-FINAL20151021-compressed.pdf. “United States Supreme Court, CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, No. 86684,” 1988. http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/486/35. html. US EPA. “Life-Cycle Assessment: Principles and Practice,” May 2006. ———. “The Solid Waste Dilemma: An Agenda for Action,” February 1989. ———. “User’s Guide for WARM.” Accessed April 29, 2016. https://www3. epa.gov/warm/Warm_UsersGuide.html. US EPA, OSWER. “Sustainable Materials Management: Non-Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Hierarchy.” Collections and Lists. Accessed April 27, 2016. https://www.epa.gov/smm/sustainablematerials-management-non-hazardous-materials-and-wastemanagement-hierarchy. US EPA, REG 09. “Less Waste Case Study: San Jose, CA.” Overviews and Factsheets. Accessed April 17, 2016. https://www.epa.gov/ transforming-waste-tool/less-waste-case-study-san-jose-ca. Wolfram, Joel. “BKROT Makes Composting Easy, Supports Bushwick’s Urban Farms.” Bushwick Daily, August 27, 2013. http://bushwickdaily. com/2013/08/bkrot-makes-composting-easy-supports-bushwicksurban-farms/. WSP Environmental Ltd, on behalf of the Government of Western Australia’s, and Department of Environment and Conservation. “An Investigation Into The Performance (Environmental And Health) Of Waste To Energy Technologies Internationally,” January 2013. http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/EIA/EPAReports/Documents/WSP%20 Waste%20to%20Energy%20Technical%20Report%20Stage%20 Three.pdf. Zimring, Carl A. Cash For Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009.


235

Image Credits

Pages 24-25: Bain News Service, “‘White Wings’ under Police Protection,” still image, (1911), http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.09893/. Pages 26-27: Arthur Tress, Dumping Garbage In Landfill Operation On Jamaica Bay Increased Water Pollution As Well As Serious Ecological Damage Is Feared, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, accessed May 8, 2016, https://research.archives.gov/ id/547983. Pages 28-29: Arthur Tress, Household Trash Has Been Dumped In Front Of The New York City Incinerator Plant At Gravesend Bay, May 1973, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, https:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HOUSEHOLD_TRASH_HAS_ BEEN_DUMPED_IN_FRONT_OF_THE_N EW_YORK_CITY_ INCINERATOR_PLANT_AT_GRAVESEND_BAY_-_NARA__547868.jpg. Pages 30-31: Bill Shrout, Municipal Golf Course Built On Sanitary Landfill, May 1972, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MUNICIPAL_ GOLF_COURSE_BUILT_ON_SANITARY_LANDFILL._(F ROM_THE_DOCUMERICA-1_EXHIBITION._FOR_OTHER_ IMAGES_IN_THIS..._-_NARA_-_553043.jpg. Page 32: Chester Higgins, Garbage Scows Bring Solid Waste, For Use As Landfill, To Fresh Kills On Staten Island, Just East Of Carteret, NJ, May 1973, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GARBAGE_SCOWS_ BRING_SOLID_WASTE,_FOR_USE_AS_LANDFILL,_TO_ FRESH_KILLS_ON_STATEN_ISLAND,_JUST_EAST_OF_ CARTERET,_NJ_-_NARA_-_548315.jpg. Page 33: Last Barge of Garbage to Fresh Kills, n.d., accessed May 4, 2016. Pages 38-39: Dave Duprey, Seneca Meadows Landfill, accessed May 5, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae9tVGyXCF0. Pages 78-79: Photo by Sure We Can. Pages 80-81, 196-209: Photography by Silvia Xavier. All other images by the author.


237

Glossary

Beneficial cover

Soil that is used to cover waste in landfills. Some authors consider this practice as recycling.

Canner

A person practicing canning. See “canning.”

Canning

The practice of collecting containers in order to return them for a 5-cent refund. This refund is established in the NY State’s “Bottle Bill.”

Capture rate

The quantity of a type of material that is diverted from landfills, divided by its total quantity in a wastestream. Usually expressed in a percentage.

Carter

Common term in NYC for private waste collectors, same as hauler.

Disposal

Refers to the last step in the flow of waste. Usually landfilling or incineration.

Diversion; diversion rate

The percentage of material that is not sent to landfills. Some authors consider incineration as diversion.

DSNY

New York City’s Department of Sanitation. It is responsible for managing collection and disposal of the city’s residential and institutional waste. Also responsible for street sweeping, street bin collection, and snow plowing.

Export; waste export

The sending of waste outside of a city or state to other locations, usually for disposal.

Hauler

A private waste collector, same as carter.

MSW

Municipal Solid Waste. In NYC it usually refers to residential and institutional, commercial, and construction and demolition wastestreams combined.

MTS

Marine Transfer Station. In NYC, MTS is a facility on the waterfront, usually public owned, that exports waste by barge.

NYSDEC

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Regulates solid waste management facilities in the state.


238

Glossary

Recyclables

Materials that can be recycled. In NYC these are usually paper, cardboard, metal, glass, and some types of plastic.

Source-separation

The separation of materials into different categories, prior to collection.

Tipping fee

See “Tipping.”

Tipping; waste tipping

Unloading of waste at a facility, e.g. at a transfer station or landfill. Usually at this point a fee is paid, called “tipping fee.”

Transfer station

Facilities where waste is usually unloaded from rearloader collection trucks into larger trucks, trains, or barges before being sent to another location.

Waste stream

The life cycle of a material, from the moment of discard to its final disposal or recycling.


Parsons School of Design New York City May 2016

Profile for Bernardo Loureiro

Visualizing Zero Waste: Future Scenarios for New York City  

Final thesis book for my MS Design & Urban Ecologies. From the abstract: “New York City’s waste system is defined by long-distance waste exp...

Visualizing Zero Waste: Future Scenarios for New York City  

Final thesis book for my MS Design & Urban Ecologies. From the abstract: “New York City’s waste system is defined by long-distance waste exp...

Profile for blpbl
Advertisement