By Guglielmo Mattioli and Nicole Lewis | April 28, 2016
New York City produces 50,000 tons of trash daily, according the City’s Comprehensive Waste Management Plan. Twenty-five percent of all the trash is residential waste, which is collected by New York City’s Department of Sanitation.
Of all the waste collected by the city, 35% is organic materials like the leftovers that never got eaten, neglected houseplants, or strands of hair. The remaining materials are solid waste such as takeout containers, anything broken, or a number of items like batteries and beer cans that should be recycled.
While organic materials eventually biodegrade, solid items never really disappear. So where does all the trash go? Well, the city’s trash primarily ends up in landfills in upstate New York and New Jersey. But before it goes there to rot for hundreds of years, it is rounded up and temporarily stored in predominately low-income neighborhoods of color in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
In 2006, New York City legislature approved a plan to move the trash around the city, opening three new marine transfer stations in Manhattan: one on the Upper East Side, one in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, and another on the Lower East Side.
On the Upper East Side, the residents near the proposed facility arggressively opposed the plan. As part of their campaign, they created an organization called Pledge2Protect.
“The community started to mobilize around 2011 when the plans for the station went public. The capacity would make the station into a monster. 500-800 thousand pounds a day. There was concern that pretty much all the garbage in Manhattan would have come through that station,” said Asbjorn Finsnes a resident near the planned facility and Pledge2Protect’s Executive Director.
Unfortunately, the community was unable to stop the opening of the marine transfer station.
“We are not gonna stop E 91st street, but we will keep explaining why its wrong. We need to move beyond putting our garbage to landfills. Last year, the city’s recycling rate was 16 percent,” said Finses. “That’s pretty bad considering we pride ourselves for being such a great city. When we compare ourselves to Oregon, California, or European cities, we are not doing enough.”
In 2015, Mayor de Blasio launched ONE NYC, a comprehensive plan to bring the city’s waste down to zero by 2030. The plan addressed the need to increase recycling and to expand the organic trash collection, which would divert waste from landfills.
Take the quiz below to find out how much you know about this complex issue.