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/

New York City Moves One Step Closer

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Administration proposal expands organics diversion program to the commercial sector.

On July 1st, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration unveiled their proposal to expand organic diversion to the commercial sector. The program would be mandatory for some 357 New York City businesses that generate large amounts of food waste, like the Barclays Center, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium; restaurants inside hotels with more than 150 rooms; and large food-processing plants. The city is planning to eventually require all restaurants to participate in the program, which began under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

The program is designed to cut methane emissions from landfills and make waste disposal practices more sustainable in the nation’s largest city.

Specifically, the program will affect 132 hotels, 7 arenas, 58 manufacturers and 160 wholesalers, according to the city. The City estimates that these waste generators produce approximately 50,000 tons per year of food waste that can be either composted or handled in another sustainable manner approved by the Department. City Hall said this program is environmentally responsible and would save space in the region’s overcrowded landfills. Kathryn Garcia, the city’s sanitation commissioner said the regulations wouldn’t cost the public any money because they would be the responsibility of affected businesses to comply.

Those affected businesses would be given a six-month grace period, after which violations would result in fines, though the amounts haven’t yet been disclosed.

“We want to be at the forefront of cities that are going to zero-waste-to-landfill,” Kathryn Garcia, said.

In total, the city’s commercial establishments generate roughly one million tons a year of organic waste. So this action will need to be followed up with more expansive directives over the next several years, so that the program ultimately includes all significant food waste generators in New York City.

With the Mayor’s recently released OneNYC sustainability plan, this is apparently what the de Blasio administration plans to do.

Hearings on the proposed regulations will begin in the fall, and the city hopes to see them go into effect next year.

This program brings New York City one-step closer to declaring its independence from environmentally troublesome, methane-generating, climate-altering landfills.

It’s All About The Data

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In the waste industry, a key criticism is the lack of data or, where data does exist, a lack of accurate information. For example, almost all operations have no idea how much waste they have, what kind of waste it is, how to prevent the waste, and where the waste goes.

In recent years the conversation regarding the need and importance of data has evolved tremendously. About five years ago responses were mixed, with some expressing how important data was, while others indicated they had a hard time seeing how the additional information might benefit their operations.

In contrast, today it is rare to come across someone who isn’t interested in or doesn’t see the value that good data can bring to their operation.

The data, however, continues to be hard to get a hold of but if you are one of the lucky ones, the data you are receiving can vary from asset management to tracking utilization to understanding how many pounds are being managed to determining waste composition. The list goes on. The point is that there is a strong push to acquire data and exploit the knowledge gained to evaluate everything from internal efficiencies to potential competition.

There was always some interest in this before, but what seems to have qualitatively changed is that there is now the ability to easily acquire accurate data from none other than the Eco-Safe Digester. This on-site technology that was originally manufactured to eliminate food waste has been collecting waste data via the cloud for more than two years. Eco-Safe Digester customers are receiving data in ways they’ve never seen before.

The level of data continues to grow from once only seeing the pounds diverted and dollars saved from the traditional and compost costs to now understanding what’s happening internally in each department, by each employee and from one location to the other. The information acquired now allows a company to understand its place in the world, evaluate trends, and save more money.

As data acquisition and availability increases, operations will be able to incorporate this corporate-specific data in their operations, forecasting and business development activities.

Additionally, Ec0-Safe Digester customers as well as the public and potential investors are looking to this data to gauge what is happening with the waste that is generated and how users adjust their behavior to prevent it altogether.

Because the data is accurately measured on-site and streamed simultaneously to a secure platform its credibility is not an issue. BioHitech America represents that the data is not skewed or flawed in any way as decisions are made based on this information.

The importance of accurate data is critical as it can spell the success or failure of any sustainability project, something BioHitech America takes very seriously.

Portions of this story was previously published on May 4, 2015 in Waste 360 and written by Bryan Staley. Bryan Staley, P.E., is president of the Environmental Research and Education Foundation, a non-profit research organization that represents the entire industry and has been working to aggregate credible and reliable industry-wide data.

The Fremont Food Waste-to-Energy Plant Shut Down

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The Fremont food waste-to-energy plant, located in Fremont, Michigan, touted as the first of its kind in the nation has closed a little more than two years after it opened because it hadn’t paid its electric bill.

The plant, operated by Novi Energy, agreed to sell renewable energy — enough to power 1,200 homes — to Consumers Energy. But on Monday, a Consumers Energy crew was at the vacant plant to shut off the power.

The plant manager claims it is a legal fight over ownership that led to the shutdown in January but nearby businesses say nobody has been seen working at the plant since late last year. Fences were locked and the lawn was choked with weeds.

The $22 million Fremont Community Anaerobic Digester, built with help from a $12.8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantee, was designed to take in 100,000 tons of waste each year from West Michigan food processors, most notably nearby baby food producer Gerber Products Co., and turn that into energy.  The Fremont project also benefited from a 2008 state law that requires Michigan utility companies to obtain at least 10% of their power from renewable sources in the state by 2015.

Anaerobic digestion has been around for centuries, although only recently evolved to where it can produce energy on a utility-use scale from a variety of food waste.   The plant is not the first anaerobic digester power site in Michigan, but is considered the largest and the only one in the state that can harness energy from waste sources other than manure.

While there is opportunity for more of these plants in the United States, the price of digester electricity is considerably higher than conventional energy. Government incentives would be key.

The City of Fremont is keeping a close eye on what’s happening at the plant, since it helped it out with a $120,000-per-year tax abatement and was relying on helping the state make progress on their sustainability goals.

 

A New Waste Hierarchy

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In 1989 the EPA issued an Agenda for Action that first included the idea of an Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy, which took on many variations before reaching the common one today.

The EPA’s basic idea was to attempt to suggest–but not mandate–that, even though landfilling was most common in the marketplace because it appeared cheapest, other options to handle discarded materials were preferable. These included source reduction, recycling, and even waste-to-energy.

Most recently, Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), a global zero waste organization has upended traditional concepts about the Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy taking that thought further to fully reflect today’s principles of sustainability.

And now with state and city policies mandating the diversion of recyclable materials from landfill coupled with the technological advances the waste industry is seeing to not only eliminate the waste more efficiently but to capture the data about the composition of that discarded waste, the hierarchy will likely need to be refreshed often.

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

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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?