Category Archives: Environmental Concerns

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

Advertisements

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to control the stink from the region’s composting plant, suggesting the methods of odor management being used are “out of date.”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

Untitled

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

ssn_organics_recycling_bins-600x450

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

042015trash

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?

This Waste-Transfer Station Plan is Garbage

transfer station

In a section of the job-hungry South Bronx zoned for heavy manufacturing sits a trash-transfer station. At the state-of-the-art facility, which like all such stations is enclosed to minimize odors, optical-sorting equipment and workers pull recyclable material from regular garbage so as little waste as possible ends up in landfills. Its 120 employees are paid well above minimum wage and earn promotions if they perform well. Some hail from a program that steers defendants from the criminal-justice system into productive employment.

In short, the transfer station is located exactly where it’s supposed to be, hires the people who need jobs the most, pays well and helps the environment.

Now get this: At least 20 City Council members want to cut the plant off at its knees.

In the name of environmental justice, they are sponsoring a bill to hamstring transfer stations like the one in the Bronx, which could have its waste-processing capacity reduced by 50%. The result would be more trucks carrying trash across the city for longer distances and spending more time on local streets, rather than highways.

Bronx plant owner Action Environmental Services, for its part, would be stuck with an underused $15 million optical sorter. And the Bronx, which has by far the highest unemployment and the lowest median income in the city, could see dozens of the facility’s quality jobs disappear.

The council is right to be concerned about the concentration of trucks in certain parts of the city. But this bill, known as Intro. 495, would do more harm than good. It would compel many stations to handle less waste, yet would do nothing to reduce it. With the city’s waste stream growing by 4% to 5% every year, the consequence would be more waste processing in neighborhoods and at facilities less suited for it. It’s not even certain that waste-industry businesses would add the needed transfer-station capacity or build the composting facilities the council wants, given the chilling message that Intro. 495 would send by undermining their previous investments.

This is the kind of legislation that lets politicians don a halo of environmental justice without helping the environment or doing justice. The bill purports to limit garbage trucks but will merely divert them to longer and less efficient routes. It increases disposal costs and pollution. And it pits communities against each other.

The de Blasio administration, to its credit, opposes this counterproductive bill. Its council sponsors would do well to dump it in the recycling bin. The bill they should start focusing on, which is up for a vote in July, is Local Law 146 requiring the city’s largest food waste generators to separate food waste ensuring it does not go to landfill. Suitable on-site disposal solutions offer the promise of eliminated garbage trucks removed from the city’s congested roads and perhaps eliminate the need to build composting facilities altogether. An on-site solution like The Eco-Safe Digester, manufactured and sold by New York-based BioHitech America offers customers an opportunity to become more aware of what is being disposed so that efforts can be made to reduce it entirely. That is the kind of change needed in a city looking for considerable environmental and monetary wins for their garbage and their communities.

A version of this article appeared in the March 6, 2015, online issue of Crain’s New York Business