Garbage and Marine Transfer Stations: Interviews

In addition to the interview with Justin Wood, the director of Organizing and Strategic Research of NYPLI as well as the leader for the Transform Don’t Trash group, whose interview was detailed in last week’s post, we also interviewed Ron Gonen. Ron is the former Deputy Commissioner of Sanitation, Recycling and Sustainability for New York City as well as Co-Founder and CEO of the Closed Loop Fund.

During the conversation, Ron talked about some key issues that he focused on while in the DSNY as well as his support for the franchising system that will be implemented in the future. So, the three main aims of the reform of the system while in DSNY are: food waste collection, its biggest part of the waste stream, revert from landfills. At the time of his mandate, there was only one type of plastic accepted, so the effort then was to generate new standard where all plastic is accepted. Third issue, is the need to recognize that electronics are taking over a significant part of the landfills, so there was the development of a collection program for electronics.When asked about Marine Transfer Stations, he commented on the fact that very little recyclable waste is sent to the MTS, most of it is just garbage.

Similarly to Justin Wood, Ron also believes in the implementation of a localized processing system of compostable waste. He even proposed the development of more distributed anaerobic digesters solutions in abandoned lots, garages, schools around the city, that currently only has one anaerobic digester. It is so because they reduce the need for waste transportation. Also similar to Justin, Ron supports the franchising system that is being planned by the DSNY. He states that the current system, with 200 companies driving around the city competing with each other is not an efficient program. He believes that it will make waste collection efficient, stimulate better service and reduce truck traffic. If done properly will have a great impact on health of living and sustainability in the city.

The group also exchanged a few emails with Janine Lang from the pressofice of the Department of Sanitation and these were some of the questions and answers:

Is there a system in place to decide which trash goes to which MTS?
For purposes of waste disposal, The City is divided into 7 geographical areas called wastesheds. Each of four wastesheds are assigned to marine transfer stations.

Where does trash go from MTS's? Does it differ by location?
“Waste is containerized at the MTS and placed on a barge. A private company transports the containers to an intermodal facility where they are loaded onto a train. Each company that won a bid for the transport and disposal of waste from each MTS, contracts with a final disposal location. One company transports the waste from two MTS’s to landfills in upstate New York and Virginia. The other company transports the waste from two MTS’s to waste-to-energy facilities in upstate New York and Pennsylvania.”

What are the processing capacities for the existing MTS facilities and how is that
decided?
“The permitted capacities differ depending on size of the MTS and the size of the wasteshed. The Department’s Consultants, Engineers and Designers submitted a plan to the State Department of Environmental Conservation for the conversion of existing MTS’s from open dumping into hopper barges to a fully enclosed containerized facility. When the plan was approved and a permit for construction was issued, the MTS was built to handle the capacities requested. The North Shore MTS in Queens is permitted for 3,672 tons per day; The Hamilton Avenue MTS in Brooklyn is permitted for 3,520 tons per day; The 91st Street MTS in Manhattan is permitted for 1,860 tons per day; The SouthWest Brooklyn MTS is permitted for 2,106 tons per day.”

Who acts as a liaison between neighbors and MTS's?
“There is a Citizen Advisory Group in Manhattan that acts as a liaison between
neighbors and the 91st Street MTS. There is no specific liaison for each of the other MTS locations. Neighbors near any of the MTS’s are free to call the Department’s Solid Waste Management Bureau with any concerns.”

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