Aug 15 2014
Another Step Taken Toward Solving NYC’s Solid Waste Problem
Atop one of the City's digester eggs in Newtown Creek, Brooklyn
Photo credit: Juan Monroy  via Creative Commons
August 15, 2014
Another Step Taken Toward Solving NYC’s Solid Waste Problem

Category

Waste

Contrary to the tremendous environmental and social burden our waste stream imposes, it actually has real value. The City has taken another step toward harnessing that value in North Brooklyn.

One of the biggest challenges to New York City’s fundamental sustainability is the enormous quantity of solid waste it produces. As we and other outlets have reported, city residents and businesses generate over 20,000 tons of trash per day. The majority of that waste is trucked out of the city to landfills and incinerators across the country, causing problems every step of the way.

But the de Blasio administration, following in the footsteps of its predecessor, is taking aim at one of the largest components of our waste stream: food scraps and other organic material.

Organic waste -food, paper towels and tissues, and yard refuse- makes up over thirty percent of our residential waste stream.

Tens of millions of dollars are spent every year to truck that waste out of state. But that is changing. The City has been steadily expanding organics recycling -or composting- across the five boroughs. At the same time, it has been busy experimenting with turning organic waste into something usable- energy.

And now,  as Capital New York reported yesterday, the City is preparing to ratchet up the amount of organic waste it feeds to its space age digester eggs in Newtown Creek, which convert sewage sludge and organic waste into natural gas. The eggs will now process 50 tons of waste per day, a big jump from today’s 1 to 2 tons daily.

There is the possibility, says the City, to ultimately process as much as 500 tons per day at Newtown Creek- that’s reportedly 15% of New York City’s entire organic residential waste stream.

The implications of the City’s technological advances are widespread.

The City’s progress on anaerobic digestion is good news for everyone, from communities around Newtown Creek and the South Bronx which are home to much of the city’s traditional waste transfer infrastructure, to Newark which burns our trash, to Ohio which buries it.

And, as Capital New York reporter David Giambusso notes, fewer trips to out-of-state landfills means 90,000 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide pumped into our atmosphere. So we can all breathe a little easier.

Atop one of the City's digester eggs in Newtown Creek, Brooklyn
Photo credit: Juan Monroy  via Creative Commons