The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently released a draft of its plan for a new direction in waste management, “Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Materials Management Strategy for New York.” The plan aims to shift the state’s waste management focus from the end of the waste chain closer to the beginning, more emphatically supporting waste reduction, reuse and recycling. It proposes stricter regulation for solid waste management, educational programs for businesses and individuals and a shift to manufacturer responsibility in the creation of products and packaging. If implemented, the DEC projects the plan could reduce the State’s waste production from 14 million tons annually to 2 million tons.
The DEC will be holding a series of public meetings about the plan throughout the month—New York City’s meeting will be June 8th at the Department of Public Health. DEC will be accepting public comments on the draft through July 6th.
Public hearing about the draft NYS Solid Waste Management Plan
June 8th, 5 pm
New York City Department of Health
125 Worth Street, 2nd Floor Auditorium, Manhattan
The Spring/Summer issue of the Freshkills Park newsletter, Fresh Perspectives, is up on the official Parks homepage for Freshkills Park. In this issue are a review of the past year’s expanded tour programs at the Freshkills Park site and a profile of the Department of Sanitation’s compost facility, located just beside the former landfill, in addition to the cover story, which offers a history of the Fresh Kills area before landfilling began in 1948 and an annotated map of historic activities onsite.
We put this newsletter out every six months and distribute hard copies to various parks and cultural institutions throughout the City, in addition to handing them out on our public bus tours of the Freshkills Park site. Digital archives of past newsletters are available on the homepage, under the ‘More Information’ tab.
Piggybacking on last week’s front-page story on comparative waste management strategies in Denmark and the US, the New York Times runs an op-ed by former Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner Norman Steisel and former DSNY director of policy planning Benjamin Miller on the need for a new set of policy actions and built facilities to manage New York City’s waste more sustainably, locally and cheaply.
As New York City’s garbage decomposes, it releases some 1.2 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide and its equivalents — primarily methane — into the atmosphere. On top of that, the fuel it takes to haul 11,000 tons of waste hundreds of miles six days a week releases an additional 55,000 tons of greenhouse gas per year…. Since New York began exporting its garbage, the Sanitation Department’s budget has more than doubled, to $1.3 billion in the current fiscal year from less than $600 million in 1997. And in the past seven years, the costs of the city’s landfill contracts have gone up more than $90 million, enough to pay 1,000 full-time firefighters, nurses or teachers.
The writers make a series of broad proposals, primary among which is the establishment of New York City-based waste-to-energy plants. The European examples are certainly impressive. Regardless of the City’s ultimate direction/redirection on waste management, we’re glad to see discussion on the real costs and benefits of different strategies entering public debate more these days.
Garbage on Roosevelt Island—the 147-acre strip of land lying in the East River between Manhattan and Queens—is disposed of through a remarkable system of underground pneumatic tubes that was constructed in 1975. The Island’s 14,000 residents empty their trash into a series of garbage chutes which are emptied into the pneumatic pipes several times daily, carrying it at 30 miles per hour to a transfer station at the end of the island. There it is compacted by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), sealed into containers, and loaded on a truck for private export to a landfill outside the city. This Automatic Vacuum Collections System (AVAC) collects and exports more than ten tons of waste daily.
A month-long exhibit on the AVAC, its history and its value as a model for future waste management operations opens today at Gallery RIVAA on the Island, with an opening reception this evening. The show, called “Fast Trash,” has been curated by architect Juliette Spertus and the design firm Project Projects (which also designed the signage and visual identity of Freshkills Park). “Fast Trash” includes explanatory diagrams, video interviews with DSNY engineers who maintain the system, and a selection of drawings produced through a collaboration between the Center for Urban Pedagogy and students from the Child School, exploring what garbage collection might look like in a future without roads. The show will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1960 master plan developed for the Island by architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson. A related panel discussion at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service called “Comparative Garbage Collection Strategy and Urban Planning” will take place on May 6th.
FAST TRASH: Roosevelt Island’s Pneumatic Tubes and the Future of Cities
April 22–May 23, 2010
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 22, 6–9pm
Gallery RIVAA, 527 Main Street, Roosevelt Island
Tomorrow is Earth Day, and Mayor Bloomberg is expected to sign new legislation into action that will substantially update New York City’s recycling program for the first time since 1989. The biggest addition to the program will be the Department of Sanitation‘s (DSNY) eventual capacity to recycle all rigid plastic containers, including those used to hold laundry detergent, motor oil and yogurt. The limiting factor in recycling these containers to this point has been the lack of a facility capable of handling them; a new facility in Brooklyn is currently being planned but won’t be operational until at least 2012.
Other stipulations of the legislation will include the DSNY clothing collection bins in various City-owned locations, DSNY collection of hazardous household waste like bleach, paint and turpentine at specified drop-off locations, and fines for landlords whose buildings fail to comply with the new law. Spaces around the city will also see 300 new recycling bins over the next three years, and 700 more within the next decade.
(via The New York Times)
Monday, March 22nd marked the nine year anniversary of the closure of Fresh Kills Landfill. To reflect on that milestone, we pulled this timeline (PDF, 11MB) of the landfill’s operation from our archives. It was put together for the catalogue of the exhibit called “Fresh Kills: Artists Respond to the Closure of the Staten Island Landfill,” mounted at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center‘s Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art in 2001.
The timeline doesn’t include every pertinent piece of information, of course. One important addition: in 1990, Governor Mario Cuomo signed a consent order placing the Fresh Kills Landfill under the governance of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); under that governance, the Department of Sanitation installed state-of-the-art infrastructure throughout the site to capture landfill gas emissions, collect and purify leachate and monitor the landfill’s impacts on surrounding air and water quality. These systems continue to operate today. More information on the site’s infrastructure and environmental controls is available under the ‘About the Site’ tab on the Freshkills Park home page.
An informative early-1980s video primer on the development of the contemporary sanitary landfill, with Fresh Kills as the prime example. Some interesting footage of the landfill in operation.
Important note regarding the narrator’s concerns about the quality of drinking water in the vicinity of landfills: Staten Island’s water supply, like that of the rest of New York City, comes from upstate New York and not from the immediate environment. There is also a naturally occurring clay liner at the bottom of the landfill mounds at Fresh Kills, which keeps leachate from seeping into the water table (in sanitary landfills without clay liners, synthetic liners are now installed). A vast infrastructure is in place within the mounds at the site to collect and process both leachate and landfill gas–you can read more about it under the ‘About the Site’ tab on the Freshkills Park home page.
The post-holiday season can result in a lot of waste. Groups around New York City are offering a host of upcoming recycling and composting events to ensure that not everything simply ends up in a landfill.
- Parks all over the five boroughs will be participating in MulchFest this weekend, allowing you to bring your Christmas tree to a designated location to be chipped into mulch. You can also take away free mulch being offered by the city. 10am-2pm, Saturday and Sunday. The Department of Sanitation will also be offering curbside pickup of trees until January 15th.
- The Lower East Side Ecology Center (LESEC) is offering several E-waste recycling points in Manhattan and Brooklyn, this weekend and next, where you can dispose of unwanted or broken electronic devices.
- LESEC and the NYC Compost Project are hosting a number of worm composting workshops, for adults and for kids. Registration in required and there is a fee of $5 per person.
In 2002, a year after the Department of Sanitation and and the Municipal Arts Society announced the design competition for the reuse of the Fresh Kills landfill, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) embarked on an investigative project called Garbage Problems aimed at understanding the processes behind waste management in New York City. Working in collaboration with students from City-As-School high school, CUP produced a variety of compelling educational materials: a playful model and design plan for the reuse of the landfill called “Garbage City“; a 30 minute video on the project; and “The Making of Garbage Problems,” a large-format collage brochure explaining the project and providing a variety of resources on waste management in the wake of the closure of Fresh Kills.
The New York City Department of Sanitation is testing out four models of hybrid diesel-electric garbage trucks as it considers how to upgrade its fleet. The trucks have been designed to look and operate like typical, all-diesel powered trucks but use 30% less fuel and produce 30% less emissions. They accomplish these reductions by generating energy in an electric motor when the trucks slow down and storing it in a battery to be used in tandem with the diesel engine. Garbage trucks are ideal for this technology because they make frequent stops, regenerating energy several times on each block. The city plans to assess the four models over the next year before beginning to purchase up to 300 new vehicles per year.
(via The New York Times)