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September 2006


New York City council approves new waste management plan

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hailed the passage of a landmark waste management plan that will fundamentally change the way New York transports waste.

The plan, which addresses both residential and commercial waste, as well as waste prevention and recycling, should be fully operational by 2009.

The Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) will change the way the City transports waste. Currently, trucks and private tractor trailers export about 84 percent of the City’s residential garbage, which totals 12,000 tons a day. Under the new plan, sanitation trucks will be used to export only 13 percent, while the use of long-haul tractor-trailer trucks will be eliminated entirely. The City will export nearly 90 percent of the residential waste by barge or rail.

Under the SWMP, New York City will build four new Marine Transfer Stations (MTS), at an approximate cost of $360 million. Barges will carry containerized waste from sanitation trucks to an inter-modal facility. The barges will be transferred to a railcar or a sea-faring barge and sent to an out-of-state waste disposal facility. In addition, the plan will make use of up to six privately-owned rail transfer stations in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Together, the rail and marine transfer stations will handle nearly all of the City’s residential waste.

As a result, sanitation trucks will travel about 2.7 million fewer miles per year, and travel by tractor-trailer trucks will be reduced by 3 million miles per year.

To be economically responsible, the plan includes a long-term strategy to deal with the rising cost of trucking the City’s garbage out-of-state. Transfer stations currently used by the City are privately owned and operated, which leaves the City susceptible to significant future cost increases. By building four new transfer sites that will be owned and operated by the Department of Sanitation, the City will be able to control costs and guard against potential spikes by signing 20 year contracts with private companies.

The SWMP will also achieve greater equity among the five boroughs. For many years, Staten Island was forced to accept most of the City’s trash. When the Fresh Kills landfill was closed, the City had little choice but to truck most garbage out of the City – and that put new burdens on other communities, particularly in North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Southeast Queens, where most of the City’s private transfer stations are located. Under the new plan, the bulk of waste generated in a borough will be taken to a transfer station in that same borough.

The SWMP includes a new and ambitious recycling plan. The City will soon enter into a 20-year contract with Sims Hugo Neu to process metal, glass, plastic, and some paper. The long-term structure of the deal will allow the company to invest in a modern recycling plant in Sunset Park that will continue to make recycling far more economical than before. The SWMP also creates new pilot programs to place recycling receptacles in public places and to collect yard waste in the spring; an expanded composting program; expanded recycling outreach, and numerous studies intended to help reduce waste and expand its recycling capacity.

The recycling plan will create a new waterborne network of transfer facilities that will accept recyclable material for shipment by barge to and from the Brooklyn plant. This will include the re-activated Gansevoort Marine Transfer Station, as well as Sims Hugo Neu’s current facilities at Hunts Point, Long Island, and Jersey City along with its new Sunset Park facility.

The overwhelming majority of inbound and outbound recyclable material will be transported by barge, which will save the Sanitation Department 55,000 miles of travel per year.

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