Waste Wanders Without Wisdom









Can you imagine a future where disposing of immense amounts of trash is no longer an issue?!! If we could understand the ‘removal-chain’, we could build more efficient, sustainable waste systems and promote behavioral change.  The final journey of our trash will no longer be “out of sight, out of mind”,  so a lid thrown away in Brooklyn would tell us how it became an ingredient in Ocean Plastic Soup!!

SENSEable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the NYC Green Initiative are using a project called TrashTrack to investigate how technology can expose us to the realities of our waste.  This idea started as a proposal for an exhibition called Toward the Sentient City sponsored by The Architectural League of New York.  When Seattle resident and sustainability advocate, Tim Pritchard, discovered the opportunity to dig into the fate of trash, he proposed Seattle be the guinea pig.  Seattle has one of the country’s highest recycling rates, they are charged by the amount of trash they produce, instead of a monthly fee, they are a major port, they have interstate rail lines, which they use to transport trash to Oregon, and they have a reputation for being a green community invested in sustainability.

Tim, like many of us, had no idea what happens to the stuff we throw away. Not even the king of trash, the CEO for Waste Management, the largest waste company in the world, has a clear view of how trash ends up where it does.  One of the lead trash trackers, Dietmar Offenhuber, said “”People working in waste removal don’t really have a clear picture of where the stuff goes, so we were fascinated to see this invisible infrastructure unfolding.”

TrashTrack attaches thousands of small, smart, location aware tags to different kinds of trash so that these items can be followed.  Their current battery life could last upto 30 hours in constant motion or 3-6 months if the object had no movement. Check out their video to get a sense of how this works. They hope these tags will someday become smart dust – networks of tiny locatable and addressable microeletromechanical systems- visually revealing the final journey of our everyday objects in real time.

Video credits: E Roon Kang – video / motiongraphics; Carnaven Chiu – visualization; Dietmar Offenhuber – visualization / proj. lead; Armin Linke – videofootage; Assaf Biderman – storyboard; Carlo Ratti – storyboard / concept 

Can sensors and mobile technologies radically transform how we understand and describe our cities, manage our resources and  change our behavior?!  If our goal is to achieve zero waste then smart trash could be the inspiration to make it possible.  Businesses and communities can contact Qualcomm to get a commercial version of these trackers to explore the end life of your trash.

My apologies! I promised to post last week but alas fashion got in the way!

Until next week,

Garbage Girl



Waste Ways in NYC


NYC Transfer Stations

NYC Transfer Stations

New York City’s garbage is a hot-button issue these days.  Since we all contribute to the problem (unless, by some crazy chance, you manage to exist without producing trash, please share your secret!), so it’s extra-important to have an understanding of what happens to those bags after their curb-side pick-up.  http://www.nyenvironmentreport.com

The Barge NY Map (above) blue flags show the locations of our Waste Transfer Stations; where garbage trucks unload.  Note that most locations are near our waterways.  The garbage is reloaded onto tractor trailers, barges or railcars and taken to upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio landfills at the cost of over $330million annually to NYC taxpayers..

A few important points that the map makes:**

  1. Most of the city’s 59 transfer stations utilize tractor-trailers to move trash. There are only 7 marine barge transfer stations (every marine barge will eliminate up to 28 tractor trailer trucks from the roads), 5 rail transfer stations (approx. 2200 tons /day transferred by rail from Waste Services’ East 132nd Street, and from the Harlem River Yard, both in the Bronx), and 3 incinerator plants.
  2. The neighborhoods of Newtown Creek and the South Bronx host 32 transfer stations. Collectively, these stations handle more than 60% of NYC’s annual waste. (Both areas have higher than average hospitalization, child asthma, and death rates linked to air pollution)
  3. Newtown Creek has 19 Waste Transfer Stations — this is the densest cluster in all of the city. See video below to understand more about this community.

After the 2001 closure of the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, the city had no place to take its trash aside from other locales throughout America.  The city’s 12,000 tons/day of residential waste – excluding Manhattan’s – (Manhattan’s residential waste is trucked daily by the NYDS to a Covanta incineration plant in Newark, which converts trash into energy*). and an equal amount of commercial waste is delivered by 2,000 plus trucks to our waste transfer stations.  I am just learning that commercial waste and residential waste are handled by different carriers so the previous stats I quoted were NYSD residential garbage only!

While converting Manhattan’s residential trash to energy is arguably better than burying it, there are real costs associated with the practice. Kim Gaddy, a Newark resident and community organizer with Clean Water Action, described being on the receiving end of Manhattan’s garbage as “a nightmare.” “We have been fighting the Covanta [the plant’s operators] facility for 20 years.” Covanta has finally agreed to install new filtration technology for the plant’s boilers after this long campaign by local residents.

Since 2001, the City relies on Interim Export contracts. Under these contracts, all DSNY-managed Waste is tipped at in-City, private transfer stations and transferred to out-of-City disposal sites; or direct-hauled in collection vehicles to out-of-City transfer stations or disposal facilities.  Interim Export contracts are let by bid for specific wastesheds or boroughs. These contracts have a three-year term with two one-year renewal terms at DSNY’s option. DSNY anticipates maintaining Interim Export contracts in effect until the Long Term Export facilities for specific boroughs are available for use.

The hot button issue starts here.  No one, understandably, wants our neighborhoods and communities to be the destination point for our garbage smells, noise, and pollution.  We all love invisible garbage!  And yet, the challenge is only getting bigger, as we waste more and more.

*I can’t find specific information (yet!)  on why Manhattan’s garbage is treated differently.

**2006 statistics (much can happen in 8 years w/NYDS on it) but this study was part of a hard won effort to address NYC Waste

Check out the long term affects on one of our most “convenient” water access communities by joining Bernard Ente, on a trip up the creek and support the Newtown Creek Alliance.

Until next week,

Garbage Girl

Recycling Fabric Waste and the NYC Garment District

Leftover Fabrics after Production

Leftover Fabrics after Production

Susanne Antonucci is an Environmental Consultant with a passion for creating a Recycling Program in the NY Garment District. The following information is a fraction of her knowledge and expertise.

NY Department of Sanitation has partnered with Housing Works to install re-fashioNYC bins all over NYC in an effort to achieve PlaNYC 2030 Solid Waste Goal of diverting 75% of the city’s waste from landfills.  Released in 2007, this plan is an unprecedented effort undertaken by former Mayor Bloomberg to help prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen our economy, combat climate change and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers.

New York City’s Garment District is a 10 block, 100 year old, historic landmarked, ecosystem supporting a $30 million industry where designers can create collections and produce a finished product utilizing the district’s skilled workers and businesses for pattern making, marking, cutting, assembly and fabric selection. By interacting with their contractors, subcontractors and buying their supplies locally they can limit the amount of transport in their manufacturing, which is not possible if you are manufacturing overseas.  Even further waste reduction in the process of garment construction can have a large environmental, economic and social impact, such as recycling and repurposing textiles.  This could become second nature, like paper recycling; a common goal between the consumers, the companies and the producers.

Natural fibers such as wool, silk, linen, cotton, viscose and hemp can actually biodegrade in landfills by exposure to microorganisms that reside in the soil.  However, this process will not happen enclosed in plastic bags.  Most of the clothing in our wardrobes contain polyester, elastane or Lycra and other synthetic fibers (polyamide, acrylic, polypropylene) made from petrochemicals which are non-biodegradable.

More clothes are being bought than ever.  The Bureau of International Recycling, an industry advocacy group, claims that 2.2 lbs. of collected clothing or textiles can reduce up to 8 lbs. of CO2 emissions, eliminate the use of 1600 gallons of water, 10-1/2 ounces of fertilizer and 7 ounces of pesticide.  According to the most recently released figures from the EPA, Americans discarded 13.1 million tons of textiles clogging up an estimated 126 million cubic yards of landfill space and only 15 percent was reclaimed or recycled.

You and Your Company can Help!!

-support Made in NY by buying and supporting designers who produce in NYC

-resell your fabric to wholesalers like Mike Sokol of Marcorp Sales 212-382-2030.  They will warehouse your leftover fabrics and resell to fabric stores who sell to the next crop of young designers

-donate textiles to an arts center

-donate textiles to a school

-find a textile recycler

-get refashionNYC bins into Garment District buildings (During the first year of development, June 2011, 247,928 pounds of textiles (124 tons) were collected. The donations increased by an average of 4,167 lbs (2 tons) per month)

-look for made-by.org clothing and accessories

-check out ecofashionworld.com

-support  PlaNYC 2030 and the NYSD efforts to reduce the costs of collecting and managing our waste www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/laws/local_commrecyling.

-recycle clothing and textiles at your local green markets www.grownyc.org or put them in the many bins located around NYC

-It’s the Law to recycle if your company wastes more than 10% textiles www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/downloads/pdf/materials/Commercial.pdf

-check out www.greenupgrader.com 

-donate used clothes to stores and organizations who resell or redistribute them

-Schultze, Christopher, “Sustainable Innovation: Reducing Fashion’s Carbon Footprint. August 20, 2012. Accessed Web September 10, 2012. International Herald Tribune.  www.rendezvous.blogs.nytimes/2012/08/20/sustainable-innovation-reducing-fashion.

-Wallender, Mattias, “Why Textile Waste Should be Banned from Landfills.” January 2, 2012. Web. Accessed Web August 20, 2012. Triple Pundit. People, Planet, Profit. www.triplepundit.com/…/textile-waste-be-banned-landfill


Until next week!

Garbage Girl


Organic Waste Week

Eddie Loking for the manufacturer

Park Slope Eddie looking for the manufacturer of the bins

New York City trucks 12,000 tons of residential and commercial garbage to  Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina landfills every day.  Most of this is transported by truck adding to the $2.3 billion a year it costs the city to make our waste invisibly disappear. Thirty percent of the city’s residential waste stream is organic material that can be composted (food scraps, paper towels and napkins, yard waste, etc.) which creates methane that can be turned into natural gas to heat our homes.  This will be accomplished by the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant according to National Grid.

My friend, Eddie, supplied the research that Orbis Corporation was contracted by NYC to manufacture and distribute composting bins to target neighborhoods, like his in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Garbage Girl thinks Orbis needs a good designer on their team.

The New York Times recently reported on the city’s progress collecting and processing organic material.  www.nytimes.com/2014/05/31/nyregion/composting-in-new-york-city-pilot-program-expands.html?_r=0

Local Green Markets are also participating by providing bins that take residential organic waste. Click this link to find out about all of the ways NYC is trying to reduce landfill waste. NYC.gov: Organics Collections & Drop-Offs

Not only does this progress reduce the amount of organic matter taken to landfills in plastic bags where it can’t provide important nutrients back to the soil (and minimize the fertilizers needed to keep parks green and gardens flowering) but it will help control the rat populations feeding off of our food waste.

Until next week,  Garbage Girl