Throwing Out the Trash

The NY Post had a really interesting story on the mayor’s effort to build a waste transfer station in the absolutely worst place in the city-in the densest residential area of Gracie Point on the Upper East Side. Assemblyman Micha Kellner has brought a lawsuit to stop construction:

“Garbage has to go somewhere. But if you were to make a list of the most sensible places to put Manhattan’s garbage, the Upper East Side is pretty much at the bottom of the list. The ramp to the dump, which is being built to handle up to 5,200 tons of trash a day, goes right over a children’s soccer field at the Asphalt Green Park, notes Kellner. Two public schools are a block away.”

What makes this of interest to the food stores on NYC is the fact that the last solid waste plan that the city put forward in 2005 ignored the effort of grocery stores to set up a pilot program for the disposal of food waste. Food waste makes up a huge percentage of the commercial waste stream and around 19% of the residential garbage. The city has no effective plan to deal with this food waste and that’s why it sees the necessity of building this garbage facility-because its food waste disposal and recycling program is an abysmal failure.

If the city had initiated the commercial food waste plan it could have begun to close a number of the private waste transfer stations that were polluting the poorer communities of the city-facilities that have led to the hue and cry over “fair share,” a battle cry for environmental justice. The smart policy idea is not to share the pain but to begin to reduce the pain for all neighborhoods-making the mayor’s fair share concept a symbol of the city’s failure to reduce the garbage that it processes.

What needs to be done-and that will be left to the next mayor in all likelihood-is for the city to begin to implement a commercial food waste disposer plan, one that will eliminate around 95% of all of the putrescible food waste that is currently going to the private transfer stations. As we begin to close those facilities, while food waste is being diverted to the waste water treatment system, we can also begin to expand the use of disposers for residential buildings-something that the city had begun, but discontinued, in public housing.

What the city needs is a sensible waste reduction strategy and food waste reduction is a central component of any such plan. There is no need to demonstrate a sensitivity for environmental justice-a demonstration whose function is to divert attention away from a failed waste reduction policy.

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