Category Archives: Environmental Concerns

Smarter Waste Management Solutions may be the Key to Solving Pest Problems in Major Cities

Pest control has been an ongoing losing battle for most major cities for centuries.  In more recent times, traditional methods to control pests often involve poisonous chemicals that are expensive to deploy and potentially harmful to the people living there as well as the environment.  But at the same time these cities continue to wage a war against disease carrying pests like rats and other rodents, they are rolling out what is essentially a daily curbside buffet for these pests in the form of half-eaten meals and discarded or expired food that sits in garbage bags left on city streets for collection.  Solutions like better waste containers and more frequent garbage pickups have been largely ineffective at curbing the alarming growth rate in urban rat populations, as persistent rodents have been known to chew through just about anything that gets in their way to get the food they need.

While the rodent problem in major cities continues to persist, the news is not all bad.  In the past decade, an increasing number of states are beginning to add food to the list of mandatory recyclables required by law and some major cities like New York have begun launching a more aggressive opposition against the rats.  But no matter what attempts they make, the most accurate assessment in regard to controlling the rodent population should be credited to New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, “The best way to eliminate rats is to deprive them of food.”

A major part of the solution to New York City’s rat infestation may lie in the Mayor’s Zero Waste plan. As part of that plan, the City passed legislation in 2016 requiring certain high volume businesses, like food manufacturers, arenas, and hotels with more than 150 rooms, to divert organic waste from the traditional waste stream destined for landfill. In February of this year, the City expanded that legislation to include large footprint food retailers and restaurants as well as chain restaurants like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks where multiple locations within the five boroughs have a common owner. By diverting more organics, New York City hopes to solve a number of issues associated with food waste disposal and, as is usually the case, technology is lending a hand.  Technologies that address food waste at the point of generation are beginning to gain traction as a viable solution for achieving any “Zero Waste” plan.  By addressing the organic waste at the point of generation, it is possible to not only take it from the waste stream, but also eliminate it as a source of food to fuel rodent population growth.

Our New York based technology company, BioHiTech, offers a cost effective on-site food waste disposal solution that may be the key to achieving both objectives with the added benefit of helping to reduce overall waste generation through supply chain data analytics.  BioHiTech utilizes on-site Aerobic digestion, an approved alternative solution for food waste disposal, that basically digests food scraps and most organic waste resulting in a liquid discharge that is safely eliminated through standard sewer lines, bypassing the traditional trip to the dumpster or curb for pickup.  Additionally, if those sewer lines lead to an advanced wastewater treatment facility the discharge can ultimately be used as a fuel source to generate renewable energy and to produce beneficial fertilizers.

And we take traditional aerobic digestion one step further, by helping our customers become smarter about the waste they are generating through actionable information. We developed the BioHiTech Cloud, a sophisticated data analytics platform, making BioHiTech the only aerobic digestion company that provides its customers with access to real-time data. Each BioHiTech digester is equipped with a built-in scale and internet connected technology that enables our customers to track their disposal process in real-time to ensure no food waste is improperly disposed while simultaneously providing regulators with accurate data to help track the results of their imposed regulation.  The data can also help our customers better manage their supply chain by making them smarter about what they are throwing out.  We view this information technology as one of the key factors in achieving Zero Waste.

Waste management is one of the most time-intensive and frustrating tasks endured by food service employees.  It’s difficult, it’s messy and it’s expensive.  Digesters can remove food waste from dumpsters or the curb, eliminating unwanted vermin and odors as well as relieving many of the demands on housekeeping.  As more and more businesses, cities and neighborhoods seek to address their needs for sustainable food waste disposal solutions to help combat rodent infestation, we offer an affordable and effective solution to safely control food waste and maybe even a way to finally win the pest control battle.

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New York City Announces Business Organics Rules

Beginning July 19, 2016, certain New York City businesses will be required by law to separate their organic waste. If your business meets the minimum requirements outlined below, you must comply with the business organics rules.

Establishments covered by Business Organics Rules

  • All food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms
  • All food service vendors in arenas and stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 people
  • Food manufacturers with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet
  • Food wholesalers with a floor area of at least 20,000 square feet

Businesses covered by this proposal are given the option to arrange for collection by a private carter, transport organic waste themselves, or process the material on site. Suitable processing methods include composting and aerobic/anaerobic digestion. A food waste grinder is not permitted.

Business Resources: materials and trainings offered by DSNY.

Self-Transport: Businesses choosing to haul their own source-separated organics must register with the NYC Business Integrity Commission (BIC).

On-Site Processing: Businesses covered by these rules that choose to process organics on-site must register with DSNY within 30 days of installing on-site processing equipment.

NYC Commercial Organics Law

organic-waste-11414NYC Commercial Organics Rule

Residents argue that it’s neighborhood composting facility is like living next to a garbage dump

compost pile

In the Richmond section of Vancouver, city officials are demanding more stringent air-quality regulations to control the stink from the region’s composting plant, suggesting the methods of odor management being used are “out of date.”

Harvest Power, which has held a composting facility license since 1997 and collects 200,000 tonnes of Metro Vancouver’s food scraps each year, has been the focus of more than 270 odor complaints in the past 2 1/2 years.

A Richmond staff report suggests that while Harvest Power is “of critical importance to meeting the city’s zero waste goals,” the city is worried about its ability to manage the odors.

The company is now facing more backlash as it seeks an air-quality permit from Metro Vancouver to increase its “authorized emissions” after significantly exceeding projected air-quality and odor emissions — in some cases 11 times higher for certain compounds.

Officials maintain the odors themselves aren’t necessarily considered a health risk, although depending on what’s in the compost, the smells could cause physical distress, as well as headaches or nausea, and detract from the quality of life for those suffering from it.

The Richmond staff report maintains the current requirements for emissions, are “insufficient,” and argues Harvest Power has not carefully considered all technology options, nor included new odor-management measures in the permit application.

As the number of composting facilities increases across the region, there will need to be a more substantial approach to odor management, and clear definitions of what constitutes “pollution,” to alleviate community concerns or noticeable odors will continue unabated from these facilities.”

The story in its entirety can be found here:

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Region+composting+plant+faces+backlash+foul+Odour+emissions+affect+residents+living+from+facility/11600386/story.html

Brooklyn residents hope to shut down waste transfer station, claim odors and fumes are sickening

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Garbage is an irrefutable fact of life in New York City. It’s the first thing newcomers notice and the last thing they see when they leave the city: trash is seemingly everywhere but perhaps more concentrated in just a few areas.

Bushwick residents who live around a busy waste transfer station on Thames St. owned and operated by 5-Star Carting are on a mission to get the facility shut down — claiming safety issues, compliancy issues and health risks. Residents complain that not only are the noxious odors and fumes enough to make people sick the chemical spray 5-Star has started pumping out to mask the odors carry additional health warnings.

A study released this year by the Transform Don’t Trash coalition– which brings together the NYC-EJA, ALIGN (a workers advocacy organization), New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the New York City Teamsters labor council– found that this “clustering” of waste transfer facilities results in a system in which “regardless of where waste is generated in the city it is trucked to [these facilities that are] primarily concentrated in three overburdened communities.” This not only increases the inefficiency of the system as a whole, but also puts nearby residents’ safety and health at risk from heavy truck traffic and poor air quality.

Bushwick is one of these overburdened communities. Before being transported to incinerators, 40 percent of the city’s trash ends up at transfer stations in North Brooklyn.

While the problem of trash distribution has been developing over the last 30 years, the chaotic, truck-intensive commercial waste system is not just problematic from a climate perspective – it also harms New Yorkers on a day-to-day basis and squanders important economic development opportunities.

Many Bushwick residents believe that if the transfer stations was moved for just one week and placed next to the Armory in Manhattan, a million people would protest and that dump would likely be closed in a day.

In addition to the noticeable aroma there are also many health concerns as the fumes from the high number of trucks and pollution from chemicals used at the facility waft in the air. Diesel fumes are known to exacerbate asthma symptoms and studies show that Bushwick has one of the highest asthma rates in the city.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who is also Chair of the City Council’s Sanitation Committee continues to put pressure on the de Blasio administration to consider redistributing these waste transfer facilities but notes that getting other neighborhoods to take on a greater share of the city’s waste is not easy to do in the city of New York for a very simple reason– nobody wants trash in their neighborhood.

The Bushwick residents are hoping the city will refuse to do business with 5-Star Carting if its not following city laws about protecting the community. The Mayor has pledged to make trash collection and recycling in the city more efficient and more sustainable, we will see if this applies to the residents in Bushwick.

More on this story can be found here:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/exclusive-article-1.2452182

 

NYC Compost Problems

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As reported first by CBS New York, New Yorkers complain that being asked to compost their garbage is creating a stinky mess.

NYC residents have green bins for regular garbage, blue ones for recycling and now brown ones for composting and residents of Greenpoint located in the borough of Brooklyn are none to pleased with the new bin.

Marzena Golonka, a Greenpoint building owner says her neighborhood stinks and it’s the city’s fault. The city is also always complaining about the rodent problem, and now in Greenpoint along with many other neighborhoods, the addition of the brown bin is like putting out a welcome mat for the rodents.

Walking down Guernsey Street, CBS news reports that you can barely breathe through your nose due to the stench. Neighbors say the brown bins for composting are not working – the reporter found one that was not securely closed and had maggots spilling out of it.

For years, residents voluntarily dropped off food waste at compost sites throughout the city, but with some restrictions. Meat, fish, and dairy products were not allowed; they took too long to break down and are way too smelly. But for some reason, the curbside pickup by NYC sanitation will accept the odorous items.

The true test will be when businesses are tasked with separating out their food waste from the regular trash. Hearings begin in the fall of 2015 to map out the city’s plan for commercial businesses. Until then Kathryn Garcia, the city’s sanitation commissioner admits that they are still experimenting in certain parts of the city and still is unsure what is going to be best for the city of New York.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/07/17/greenpoint-compost-problems/

NYC’s Commercial Waste Management System Is Garbage

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New York City’s commercial waste-management system is more broken than anyone realized, according to a report released by Transform Don’t Trash NYC.

The coalition found that New York City businesses produce 5.5 million tons of waste per year—two million more tons than the most recent official estimate. Of those 5.5 million tons, 4 million are “disposed”, sent to the landfill or incinerated, rather than recycled. And while Bloomberg’s 2011 PLaNYC report set the city’s recycling rate by offices, restaurants, stores, hotels, and hospitals at a less-than-great 40%, TDTNYC estimates that the actual percentage is closer to 24%.

If not worse, annual reports foiled with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation show that last year, two of the biggest private waste haulers in the city recycled just 9% and 13% of their waste, respectively.

TDTNYC obtained these troubling new statistics from a study of commercial waste management in New York City, conducted back in 2012 by Halcrow Engineers, and commissioned by the DSNY.

According to the report thousands of private waste-collecting trucks overlap routes in NYC: in 2012, at least 25 independent trash haulers worked each neighborhood, and a whopping 79 just in Midtown. As a result, the city was faced with unnecessary “pollution, noise, congestion and hazards of excessive truck traffic.”

Setting the 2012 study aside, TDTNYC supplemented these findings with a 2014 survey of 580 businesses across the five boroughs.

Their survey revealed individual blocks in several neighborhoods where collection trucks from 8-10 different hauling companies serviced businesses, and one multi-block commercial strip serviced by 22 different hauling companies. The constant struggle to gain and retain customers leads haulers to operate inefficient routes.

For example, a typical team of two workers operating a truck might collect waste from 70 different restaurants in one night. While a dense customer base would allow these workers to fill their trucks from restaurants in a single neighborhood, in NYC’s open system these workers are likely to drive across multiple neighborhoods and even boroughs to collect the same amount of waste from the same number of restaurants.

“When you’re out there at night, you can be on any particular street and see ten different companies at the same time picking up for different customers. You have haulers coming up all the way from Brooklyn or Queens to the Bronx or Manhattan to collect, and then going all the way back to drop garbage. If you have companies in the Bronx, why does someone from Staten Island have to come to the Bronx to pick up trash,” commented Plinion Cruz, Sanitation Truck Driver for Progressive Waste Solutions.

Cruz has also witnessed considerable shortcomings in the industry when it comes to separating out recycling:

“There are some places where you see that the customer did the diligence and separated the cans in one bag and the cardboard piled separately, and then the solid waste in black bags. The customer takes the time to separate the recyclables, but then the sanitation driver is told to put everything in one truck. So whatever the customer did didn’t serve any purpose because everything is going to be mixed together and when you get to the transfer station, the truck dumps everything and a loader scoops it up to go to a landfill or an incinerator.”

A zoning system confining private waste management companies to geographic areas would at address the traffic issues and cut back on unnecessary gas guzzling but it still does not solve the problem. Businesses are creating too much waste and need the right tools to reduce the volume before finding a more efficient way of disposing of it.

The story was first published on April 20, 2015 here:
http://gothamist.com/2015/04/20/nyc_trashed.php

 

Our Plastics Might Be Headed to the Landfill

Pile of plastic pet bottles

The Wall Street Journal posted a story yesterday about how the fall in oil prices has dragged down the price of virgin plastic erasing any advantage to the plastic recycler. In that same article, the writer suggested that oil prices are not only to blame for the collapse of plastic recycling but that government policy caused a mushroom effect in the US and Europe creating overcapacity.

Depending on whom you blame, it seems the result is that the cost to recycle plastic is more expensive than creating virgin plastic and that because of that the demand for recycled plastics have shrunk, bankrupting many recycling plants and crushing the value of collecting the material for profit.

Compared to lucrative recycling materials such as glass and metal, plastic has often been more challenging because of the complex sorting and processing, unfavorable economics and consumer confusion about which plastics can actually be recycled.

Waste Management and municipalities typically earn cash for selling recyclable materials creating a need for program that generates a profit. But no one wants to pay a premium for the recycled plastic even though it’s better for the environment. If dumping plastics in landfills is ultimately a cheaper method of disposal some municipalities may decide to forgo the recycling of plastics altogether because it will end up costing their residents money to continue to recycle the material.

The concept of uncoupling from plastic recycling programs is really a huge step backwards for our landfills and our environment. If there is no value in a plastics recycling program the plastics will be either tossed back in with our waste stream where they will take centuries to decompose in our landfills or worse, contribute to an even larger problem in our oceans where it will never degrade.

The current problems occurring at landfills all over the US however continues with our without the addition of the plastics back to our landfills. Now with the fate of our plastics final resting spot up for discussion there is certainly a potential for stronger odors and increased toxic runoff at these landfills which might make the current situation around the US even worse.

So, the battles will continue like they do in Tullytown, Pennsylvania and not because of the extra plastic.

For years the residential neighborhoods of Florence, New Jersey have alleged noxious odors have emanated form the Tullytown landfill. In October 2014, the Pennsylvania DEP issued a notice of violation, citing Waste Management for nuisance odors emanating from the landfill. In response, Waste Management made a number of improvements that have reportedly cost them millions of dollars.

What is worrisome is that if the likes of Waste Management stand to lose money on the crash of the plastic commodity will they be able to afford the clean up process at their landfills to keep the residents happy?