30 thoughts on “New York’s Garbage System Faces Mounting Challenges of Cost, Carbon and Equity

  1. The only place that Fresh Kills had 15 more years of dumping capacity was in Benjamin Miller’s imagination. In it’s last years of operation the smell of garbage reached all the way to the east shore of SI, 5 miles away.

    I understand why the locals are fighting the transfer station on East 91 Street. That is a very nice area that won’t be improved by it’s placement there. My advice to them is believe absolutely nothing that the DSNY tells them. DSNY was never able to mitigate the smells emanating from Fresh Kills because they never even tried.

    Not totally true about every borough handling it’s own waste. Some paper from Brooklyn is sent to the Visy recycling plant on Staten Island. And some garbage barges from the other boroughs are apparently still (illegally) brought to the SI transfer station where it is loaded onto sealed rail cars and shipped across the Arthur Kill liftbridge to NJ. The rail line even has grade crossings (photo: Chelsea Road), among the few in NYC.

    • Until recently Eddie Bautista was so laboring under his desire to stick in to what he perceives as the rich Upper East Side – but is actually Yorkville – he was unaware that 5 NYCHA buildings and thousands of residents live within 300 feet of this proposed horror. But then, these 5 towers were constructed where they are when the previous garbage dump incarnation was in operation because who cared if poor people were exposed to tons of garbage. Folks like Bautista and our mayor still don’t care as long as ideology is served. So what if not a shred of Manhattan’s residential waste is inflicted on other boroughs? So what if we send ton upon ton of our garbage hundreds of miles to be landfilled near still more poor people? So what if at least 4 recent studies connect particulate matter in vehicle – i.e. garbage truck – exhaust with ADHD and autism? So what if the rest of the world has moved on to such state-of-the-art recycling and 99.9% clean waste-to-energy that countries like Norway now import trash from erstwhile Russian satellites and cities like Copenhagen are constructing center urban W-to-E plants with ski runs wrapped around them? Really. What century are those we’ve entrusted with our great city living in?

      • There is no such thing as “99.9% clean waste-to-energy.” Waste cannot be turned into energy, but only into toxic ash and toxic air emissions, in horribly expensive facilities called trash incinerators that produce fairly little energy… 3-5 times more energy is saved by recycling and composting those same materials… you can’t get it all back by burning them.

        It’s a myth that incinerators are clean in Europe. They’re polluting there, too. However, the reality in the U.S. is that they’re among the worst polluters we have, worse than coal by every available measure. The main one where NYC waste will be going for the next 20-30 years (in Chester, PA) is the largest in the U.S. and lacks the basic pollution controls most have. Not surprisingly, it’s in a poor, black community with a heavy concentration of other industrial polluters as well.

        Learn more here: http://www.energyjustice.net/incineration/

        • Sequestering carbon for greater use or upcycling is the future of our waste streams. To spend roughly $.18 for $.12 of electricity is not a sustainable model regardless of the negative effects incineration has on the environment and the populations. With Innovative competitions in full swing and a concerted effort for adaptations to occur from EPR to ZERO WASTE INITIATIVES, we are getting closer to a new way of doing business. See “REIMAGINE PHOENIX” for an example of city efforts combining tech advances with university think tanks!

  2. “The single worst thing we could possibly do with garbage is landfill” – WRONG. The single worst thing NYC could do is incinerate waste, as incineration is the most expensive and polluting way to manage waste (or to make energy). It is NOT “zero waste to landfill” since the toxic incinerator ash still goes to a landfill — ensuring that there are smaller, more toxic landfills, after poisoning the air.

    The worst thing NYC could do is what it did… sign a 20-30 year contract to burn the waste in a poor, black community in Chester, PA (near Philly) – home to the nation’s largest trash incinerator and surrounded by a myriad of other polluters, including a sludge incinerator, oil refineries, chemical plants and oil/gas power plants. The incinerator lacks the basic pollution controls that most have, including the ones used to remove nitrogen oxides (NOx) that cause asthma, which is the main reason the incinerator is one of the top NOx pollution sources in the entire eastern half of Pennsylvania. Chester has a childhood asthma hospitalization rate three times the state average. Of all 80-some trash incinerators in the nation, the one in Chester is the worst for particulate matter air pollution, #3 in sulfur dioxides and #6 in mercury.

    More crazy is that the transportation plan is a mess. Trucks currently go from Manhattan to the incinerator in Newark (which is also a serious problem). The plan would have them go to the E. 91st Marine Transfer Station, transfer them (with diesel cranes?) to dirty diesel barges to ferry them through the city (most diesel exposure for some of the most polluted parts of the city) to Staten Island, to then transfer them to trains. Half of those trains will bring waste to be burned in Covanta’s incinerator in Niagara Falls, NY. The other half will go through NJ, through Pennsylvania (Philly, then through Chester) to Wilmington, DE, where they’ll be put on trucks to be trucked back into Chester, PA to be burned, poisoning the air and causing asthma, cancer and more. The resulting ash will then be trucked an hour away to the “Rolling Hills Landfill” near Reading, PA to poison the groundwater there.

    The 20-30 year contract the city signed will lock the city into paying a certain minimum amount, stifling any real zero waste plan. However, we know this isn’t a real “zero waste” plan, since incineration is the first thing that comes off the table in any real zero waste plan.

    For more info, see:
    http://www.ejnet.org/chester – on Chester, PA
    http://www.energyjustice.net/incineration – about incineration
    http://www.energyjustice.net/zerowaste – about zero waste

    • Right on the money! Please look into the Niagara Falls dilemma. With Covanta’s bid for a 30Mil upgrade to handle the increase in NYC waste, the increase in neighborhood decline will accelerate. We are hoping IBM / Robert Watson will have enough support to bring the ECOHUB to NYC. As in Houston, see ECOHUB-HOUSTON.COM Good luck to all of us!

  3. I am extremely skeptical of a rail-based option for Manhattan given the level of rail congestion coming out of the city.

    Can anyone show a viable alternative to the barges? Otherwise the opposition is just NIMBY-ism.

    • The MTS plan IS rail-based – after hauling waste by polluting barges & tugs. The plan will transport NYC waste by barge & rail at triple the cost of the current system to poor cities hundreds of miles away to be burned in out-of-date & poorly filtered incinerators. This plan will add $ billions in costs and strap NYC to a fixed & obsolete system exactly when we need maximum waste management flexibility to meet the progressive zero waste goal just revealed in the OneNYC plan.

  4. The MTS plans are obsolete, and outrageously expensive to the taxpayers of the city. The thought that trucking the thousands of tons of waste generated in midtown to a small neighborhood filled with kids and seniors, by hundreds of polluting trucks, to dump them in a facility that is YARDS from both a kids playing field, a toddler playground, and NYCHA homes, on to barges that use a grade of diesel that is way more polluting then the trucks that already traveled all over town to get to Yorkville — that that is environmentally sound is insane! No outer borough community will be impacted as this article states, since the thousands of carting companies will still take their loads to the Bronx or Queens, or wherever its cheaper to tip. The MTS belongs in NO BACKYARD.

  5. It breaks my heart to see kids playing sports on a field that will soon be lined up with garbage trucks. They emit diesel fumes, which was recently classified as a Class A carcinogen. Running fast, breathing hard, and inhaling all that cancer causing exhaust. The kids (of all races and economic backgrounds by the way) will get sick and suffer, all in the politically-motivated name of justice. Brilliant billion dollar boondoggle, Mr Mayor and Mr Bautista.

  6. Pingback: Mayor DeBlasio’s Garbage Failure | yorkvillewalkers

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  8. I live near the East 91st Street MTS construction site and am devastated to see the work progressing there. To think of the dangers–both environmental and safety-related–posed by the MTS (and the quantity of garbage trucks it will generate coming in and out of the neighborhood) is devastating. This is a residential neighborhood and a street where playgrounds, swimming pools, and ball fields sit. It’s a tragedy in one of NYC’s gems.

  9. The Yorkville transfer station, or any transfer station in a highly residential area is clearly a wrongheaded decision. The environmental dangers of a flood of garbage trucks idling on the streets where there is congested housing, open parks where thousands of children play, and many schools where children attend has been well documented. The fact that this method of disposal is non-sustainable and that funds that could well be used to research and create sustainable solutions to a growing crisis are being literally poured into short term “solutions’ that will harm an entire generation, displays either arrogance or political motivation. Is it not time that construction on this collection station be stopped, the money flow staunched, and mayor and his administration show innovative leadership before they allow a community to suffer because they cannot find the answer to a problem that eventually will have to be answered.

  10. The City must stop wasting billions of dollars on transfer stations that are not the answer for today nor the future. Taxpayer dollars should go to programs that will actually reduce waste and reduce burdens placed on New Yorkers.

  11. Bloomberg’s plan for a Garbage Dump @ East 91st Street was supposed to be “Grandfathered In” legally that means built “In the Footsteps of the original Garbage Dump”. However the new Marine Transfer Station is not even near the old one and it will be 10 stories tall, making it an illegal project! In addition, the law states that a Garbage Dumo cannot be built closer than 500′ to a residential community. This one is being built 300′ from a residential community also making it illegal! Our “ONE TERM Mayor will not listen to reason. he knows that what he is doing is WRONG yet his ego will not let him DO THE RIGHT THING AND STOP CONSTRUCTION NOW!!!

  12. My 92 yr-old friend and I walked to Asphalt Green Center on York Ave at 92nd St today to check out a swimming class for elderly folks with arthritis. As we crossed York Ave on our way back, it was fully congested with traffic entering the FDR Drive a block north and with the 2 city bus lines that turn right there on 92nd Street. As I made my way across the street, my friend, who uses a walker, yelled at me not to cross. She couldn’t see through the cars that the light had changed. As I crossed, so did scores of children and mothers coming from the nursery and Asphalt Green Center. Try as I may, I can’t square adding 500 garbage trucks daily in this same 2 block area with Mayor De Blasio’s goal of zero traffic deaths!

  13. What is the logic of building a $1B Waste Transfer Station that will cost exponentially more to dispose of trash than the current waste management solution? Moreover, it does not bring any environmental benefits and the transfer station is being built in a residential flood zone!

    It’s time to spend taxpayer money on more prudent projects which bring environmental benefits and improve lives, please stop the 91st Street Waste Transfer Station.

    • It’s just trash. Who cares? The name is “the Sanitation Department” so maybe folks should stop whining about what they throw away and why there Sanitation Department isn’t keeping the sidewalks clean? Trucks with pressure washers, rainwater collections, creating green spaces…that’s what Sanitation should be about…it’s your tax dollars and your Government Agency….actual refuse volumes have collapsed since Lehman and Madoff…maybe folks should just stop paying and see what happens.

  14. I’m from Jersey, and I’m just kind of laughing at the people who are fighting the transfer stations. You’ve been doing this to us for years. Keep your own trash, we’re sick of it.


    The correct answer for all those looking for the correct is to use all that crap in a manner so that it needs not be shipped anywhere:

    But how can the now non-industrial centre of the center of the thin skinned indulgent spoiled entitled consumerist economy of a privileged country based on the gluttonous usage of capitalist consumption change decades or perhaps centuries of policies based on the class society where Democrats and Republicans agree for the most part on preservation of its decadent cesspool of inequality that is imposed worldwide?

    Oh and the current state of the recycling industrial of many vested interests represents the worst as it sells materials as any third world does.

  16. I’ve just read through the comments and noticed a lot of complaints…but no solutions. No, I don’t have the “silver bullet” as mentioned by Steven Changaris in the article, but something not discussed in the article or in the comments is education. This could be an education problem.
    How many New Yorkers really know that trash is a problem? How many of them know and don’t care? AS the saying goes, “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.”
    I admit I don’t know a lot about this issue, so I apologize in advance if I’m off-base. I don’t recall seeing any ad campaigns encouraging the general public to reduce how much they throw away (other than in the subway…track fires, eesh!) and I don’t know of any tax-benefit large corporations receive for producing less trash than other companies of similar size. If this is really a billion-dollar issue, I think a 5% or 10% reduction in waste could make a big impact, especially if it becomes a way of life for all New Yorkers. If we produce less trash, we’ll need less MTSs, less trucks, less tugs and barges, etc. The only players that lose are the companies getting paid to transport/burn/bury the trash.

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