Time for a new NYC waste management strategy?
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.