Kathryn Garcia Talks Trash

Kathryn Garcia (Photo via Hygiene Department)

This could be the choice that turns an old maxim on its head: we may soon find that there are many different democratic ways to pick up the trash.

While trash is probably not a major concern for most voters when choosing the next New York City mayor, there is no better opportunity for a real conversation about how the city is handling trash and recycling than this one recently to have deceased sanitary commissioner under himself The candidates vie for the top job in the city.

Kathryn Garcia, who quit her job as head of the city’s sanitation department in September after six years in the Post to run for mayor in this year’s election, is always ready to talk about trash, and she recently got her vision for that Future of As Imagined The city deals with its trash in an interview with Gotham Gazette and promises a full plan soon.

But Garcia doesn’t make it the centerpiece of their campaign. In the early days, she mainly focused on improving her general management skills – she was interim chairman of the city’s public housing authority and the city’s “food tsar” among others – and her plans for the city’s recovery from COVID-19, dealing with climate change and housing. Their first campaign platform also deals with policing, transit and education, and elements of waste management are mentioned in their climate and resilience plan.

And that is exactly what dealing with the incredible amount of rubbish in the city is all about: it’s an overlapping problem that affects not only the climate, but also public health and road safety, transit, the use of public spaces, and much more more. It’s also an important part of the economy and city government spending, of course – the plumbing division accounts for roughly $ 1.7 billion in this year’s community budget.

“Yes, you can expect a comprehensive trash plan in the coming weeks,” Garcia, a Democrat, told the Gotham Gazette recently, “that will cover EPR.” [extended producer responsibility], Recycling of organic matter on the roadside, composting facilities, clean curbs and containerization and waste reduction. “

“New York City had the largest food waste collection program in the country before our budget was cut. We’ll bring it back immediately, ”she said of a budget decision made by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the temporary Democrat, and her plans to replace him. “Without it, we cannot bring waste to zero. We will also be opening composting facilities in all counties, including Rikers Island, to increase processing capacity in the city. “

While de Blasio has cut the burgeoning recycling program for organic matter on the city’s roadside in this fiscal year budget, the city currently has around 100 dispensing composting stations in the five boroughs. De Blasio’s government has stalled in pursuit of far-reaching goals of reducing the city’s millions of tons of annual waste production and significantly increasing recycling, as detailed in a comprehensive series of Politico New York published last year is set out.

Garcia says that while she is keen to undertake various waste management reforms to restore or build on portions of the records she prides itself on, her main focus is on “reducing waste”.

“We’re going to do the wage analysis while you’re throwing that this government has denied us,” she said. “And we will aggressively pursue EPR so that product manufacturers are responsible for the end of life of these items.”

To encourage more recycling, which Garcia noted has “increased significantly” lately in terms of “traditional materials”, she believes the city “should increase the fine” for recycling non-recyclable materials . “It’s $ 25 now,” she said. “That seems to me to be a bit of an incentive not only to throw away materials that could be of value. But the next round is organic waste. “

“I definitely want to order organic products [recycling]”Garcia said in a separate video interview with Gotham Gazette and Manhattan Neighborhood Network that will air and be available online later this month.” I think it’s time to do that. But we also need to make sure it’s fully in the city is distributed. “

“I want to make big leaps and the difference I will bring to the table is commitment and enforcement,” she added as she emailed additional questions. “It takes many months of consistency to create a new program and we have to provide services fairly for each neighborhood.”

The other new program that Garcia got in motion during plumbing, albeit much later than its critics would like, says it wants to expand when the elected mayor is “containerized” or uses sealed bins to remove trash and To collect recycling instead of having mountains of garbage bags all over the city sidewalks. The containers can then be emptied using suitable garbage trucks, which not only reduces rubbish bags on sidewalks, but also reduces access to rats, the smell and the strenuous lifting by plumbing workers. Containerization can also help free up pavement space and limit bike path entry – containers can sometimes even help create sheltered bike paths – and is particularly helpful for those with strollers or mobility issues.

Garcia helped launch the “Clean Curbs” pilot program last year, and although it was delayed by the crisis, things are now moving forward, starting with commercial landlords and business improvement districts who volunteer to participate and are included in the program that comes with multiple requirements.

“So we really want to look at containerization, especially for commercial areas with residential areas upstairs,” she said during the video interview when asked if she would like to get all the trash bags off the city’s sidewalks. “Because we think this could be effective. We need to work more with the communities on whether or not we can containerize residential buildings because the question is where the container is. But in terms of new buildings, they should all contain containers and be inside the building so that it doesn’t lie in the street and doesn’t somehow create the walls of material. “

Garcia was referring to the adoption of “rules to ensure that all new large buildings require containerization”, for example “in a loading dock”.

“I would like to steer it in that direction,” she said when asked if widespread containerization of garbage and recycling is her vision, “but I need to understand better if I actually thought it could work. And when we’ve looked at things from Europe, we have so much more volume that it’s really difficult to fit that volume into a non-huge container. “

“But,” she pointed out, “the key to getting rubbish off our streets is to really address the problem by focusing on reducing waste.”

Talks did not affect corner trash can pick-up, another plumbing program that recently saw significant budget cuts, some of which were restored due to widespread complaints about overcrowded bins that Garcia criticized and criticized in her resignation letter.

Garcia is also proud that during its tenure, the de Blasio government agreed with the city council on a new law to renew the private garbage transport industry, streamline the market and reduce truck journeys and therefore emissions.

For the public fleet, Garcia promises to switch to electric sanitary trucks, as well as electric city buses and school buses.

Along with the pace and design of the first containerization pilot, Garcia’s call to electrify the city’s garbage trucks is one of the points on which she has been criticized. Questions were raised as to why the city’s container pilot is asking private companies to provide the rubbish bins instead of the city quickly investing in standardized containers and suitable trucks.

Darren Goldner, an organizer on climate and eco-socialism, argues that the city has moved far too slowly in containerization and that Garcia should now propose to move quickly to models across Europe and instead “move from heavy trucks to light trucks change “to concentrate on the electrification of the departmental fleet, which he called” greenwashing “.

The heavy trucks, Goldner says, are “horrible for the climate,” especially when combined with the current pickup system rather than using consolidated containerization.

Garcia’s focus, according to him, should be “to update the core function of DSNY: inefficient door-to-door collection on the sidewalk with outdated, inefficient heavy trucks”.

Goldner and the rest of the New York Democratic Socialists of America’s eco-socialist working group are developing a platform on climate and related issues, including waste management, in 2021, which they will advance candidates for city office acceptance. Meanwhile, Garcia is working on her trash plan, which could help encourage other candidates in the overcrowded mayor’s field to undertake a substantial dumpster dive.

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