A coalition of environmentalists and citizens rallied at City Hall on Oct. 2 to urge elected officials to rethink the city's commercial trash policy
A coalition of environmentalists and citizens rallied at City Hall on Oct. 2 to urge elected officials to rethink the city's commercial trash policy
A coalition of environmentalists and citizens rallied at City Hall on Oct. 2 to urge elected officials to rethink the city’s commercial trash policy.

Coalition says Mott Haven takes too much of city’s commercial trash

Something stinks in the city’s commercial trash collection industry, according to a new coalition of environmentalists, politicians and community groups that wants to see big changes in the way the garbage is picked up and processed.

Armed with hand-drawn signs and a new report from the Alliance for Greater New York, members of the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition convened on the City Hall steps on Oct. 2 to tell mayoral candidates how they might fix the problem.

Mott Haven elected officials and community organizations endorsed the plan, which proposes to improve air quality in their neighborhood. They said much of the waste trucked into transfer stations in Mott Haven and Port Morris comes from Manhattan.

“For many years the Bronx has been burdened with trash that’s not necessarily from here,” said Ana Melendez, a program manager for Melrose-based Nos Quedamos. “Our community already has a high rate of asthma and we don’t need anything else to contribute to that.”

Eddie Bautista, of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, said the group hopes to get mayoral candidates on board for 2014.

“We need the mayoral candidates to tell us how they plan to address the last frontier of waste disparity, which is the commercial waste sector of New York City, and we look forward to their responses to our report,” Bautista said.

New York City has separate systems for commercial and residential trash collection. The Sanitation Department handles residential garbage, while businesses must choose from dozens of private garbage companies to haul away their trash.

These commercial carters use too many trucks and don’t recycle as much as they could, according to the new report. They use  4,000 trucks to haul the 3.2 million  tons of solid waste generated by New York City’s restaurants, offices and businesses each year, while the Dept. of Sanitation needs less than half that number of trucks to haul 3.9 million tons a year.

While 90 percent of city’s commercial trash could be recycled or composted, the report said, only about 40 percent is.

The coalition wants the city to update the trash industry with a franchise system that would require carting companies to cover specific areas. This strategy could relieve traffic congestion and wear and tear on city streets and reduce air pollution, the report says.

With 11 waste transfer stations in Hunts Point and another six in Port Morris, truck traffic to and from those stations plays a big role in the air quality, said Melendez.  Asthma rates in the South Bronx are eight times the national average. Melendez said the problem goes back to the days when the South Bronx was treated as a residential wasteland.

“It’s about not treating this community as if it’s the Bronx that’s burning,” Melendez said.

In the proposed system, franchise awardees would be required to increase recycling and reduce truck emissions.  The report also proposes more equitably distributed waste transfer stations throughout the boroughs.  The city has taken a step in this direction with plans to open a new waste transfer station on East 91st St in Manhattan.

An industry spokesman said he hadn’t yet reviewed the report, but said that franchises could be problematic for business owners.

“It reduces the choices that customers have for who their carter is,” said David Biderman, vice president for government affairs at the National Solid Waste Management Association. “We are concerned about prices being higher for our customer in a franchise situation.”

For Matt Mogil, who owns The Commons, a small Chelsea eatery, less fewer choices and higher carting costs would be bad for business, though he supported increasing recycling and reducing emissions.

“I’m a small business so I’d want to limit my costs at all times,” said Mogil.  “Paying more for these services for which I already pay less, I’d be against that.”

Council members from communities burdened with waste transfer stations expressed support for a plan that would cut the truck traffic through their neighborhoods.  Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents most of Mott Haven and parts of East Harlem,  said she would try to make sure that the next mayoral administration commits to the plan too.

I look forward to having the council be a true partner in implementing these recommendations,” Mark-Viverito said.

About Post Author