Archive for the tag 'recycling'

Source: katerha via flickr

Source: katerha via flickr

The first City Council hearing on a proposed mandatory fee for plastic bags at grocery stores and supermarkets took place yesterday, and it’s already proving to be one of the most divisive issues to come before the usually lockstep Council body.

Capital New York reports:

The bill, Intro. 209, is being championed by Council members Brad Lander of Brooklyn and Margaret Chin of Manhattan and would impose the fee on all plastic and paper bags issued by grocery stores, bodegas, liquor stores and the like in city limits. The intent is to cut back on the estimated 100,000 tons of plastic bags that find their way to the rivers, streets and trees in the city and encourage New Yorkers to use reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags constitute 2 percent of the city’s waste stream.

… Supporters maintained the 10 cents does not constitute a tax as no money would go to government coffers. Store owners would keep the 10 cents on each bag.

That, of course, hasn’t stopped opponents from describing it as a tax. One of the most vocal opponents so far has been Councilman David Greenfield.

The Daily News reports:

“Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to sit here today and talk about actually raising taxes on New Yorkers,” said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), who said he buys 30 bags of groceries for his family every Thursday night. “Now I’m going to have to pay three bucks extra a week.”

While proponents like Lander and Chin, who represent some of the city’s tonier districts, argue that such fees have successfully reduced the use of plastic bags in cities including Washington D.C., other elected officials say that it would unfairly hurt low-income families.

Councilman Chaim Deutsch is instead proposing a “recycling education campaign” to urge New York City residents to scale back on the roughly 9.37 billion disposable bags used in the five boroughs every year, most of which ends up in landfills.

“While our environmental goal should be to enhance programs which encourage recycling, the absolute wrong way to accomplish this worthwhile objective is by implementing a tax on plastic or paper bags,” said Deutsch in a statement. “I would rather support a recycling education campaign than support a tax, imposing an unfair financial burden on so many.”

Deutsch noted that though the bill’s provisions exempt food stamp recipients, not all of the city’s cash-strapped residents are on food stamps.

The de Blasio administration and Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have not taken a position on the bill.

Update (November 24, 11am) : Councilman Mark Treyger also objected to the bill when he spoke to us on Friday, November 21.

“I do not believe that 10 cents is going to change a behavior. It’s just going to place another burden on working class families in New York,” he told us. “I believe we should look at alternative types of bags that are biodegradable.”

Polina Groman and her husband Elliot. Source: SpinGreen via Forbes.

Polina Groman and her husband Elliot. Source: SpinGreen via Forbes.

While the city is in the middle of grappling with the explosion of for-profit, often shady, clothing donation bin companies, one Sheepshead Bay-based company is getting recognition for doing it right.

SpinGreen, based at 1733 Sheepshead Bay Road, was profiled by Forbes magazine yesterday for their work in the space, challenging the growing notion that the bins are nothing but a nuisance.

SpinGreen manufactures, distributes, and maintains bins for both indoor and outdoor use that are rust, graffiti, and bedbug proof. While it is illegal to place these containers on public land, [owner Polina] Groman, 34 and originally from Ukraine, works with private property owners. For example, Trump Village, a complex in Brooklyn with about 3,500 residents, hosts a bin.

… The partnership requires little work for property owners since the bins have a weight sensor technology and GPS tracking that ensures the containers never overfill, and SpinGreen also has a 24/7 customer service line in case of emergency. Each owner is also provided with $2 million liability insurance.

Groman and SpinGreen are constantly battling the negative perception clothing bins are gaining. Community leaders and neighbors have been blasting the bins for adding squalor to the streets, and for their illegal placement on public property. Some of the operators also appear to imply the “donations” are going to a charitable cause, when in reality they’re being sold overseas.

The controversy has led one City Council member to introduce a bill that would get the bins tossed from public lands and the operators fined, while having legal bin operators register with the city and provide data on collections. That bill has overwhelming support and is likely to pass following hearings next month.

SpinGreen is combating this by working with reputable charities, donating all wearable items (about 10 percent of its haul) to partners instead of selling it overseas. The remains are sold to recyclers who process it for reuse in materials like industrial wiping rags or furniture padding. A portion of the proceeds of those sales go back to the property owners who host the bins, and a portion goes to charity, the owner told Forbes.

For Groman, the biggest challenge she faces isn’t the unscrupulous competition, it’s simply getting people to understand the positive impact of recycling. More than 13 million tons of textiles goes to U.S. landfills every year, with Americans recycling only about eight percent. Groman hopes to change that.

 Groman was inspired to launch an educational component to her business — an effort that would contribute to establishing a good social enterprise reputation and also increase her customer base. She said she sees education and awareness, not competition, as her biggest challenge. “Not everybody recycles cans. That’s the reality. But you know that blue bin is for recycling,” Groman said. She created a nonprofit called the Barefoot Foundation that provides free after-school programs on recycling for local schools and foundations.

Source: katerha via flickr

Source: katerha via flickr

The City Council is planning to introduce legislation that would charge consumers 10 cents at grocery and retail stores for plastic bags if they don’t bring their own reusable bags to checkout lines. Politicker is reporting that the proposed legislation, which is aimed at reducing waste, will come to a vote on Thursday (Corrected: See below)

If customers don’t bring their own bags to stores, they will be hit with a dime surcharge that the stores will get to keep. Politicker noted that proponents of the bill have big numbers to back their insistence on the measure as well as the difference between this bill and a similar tax proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that went unsupported by the Council:

According to the bill’s proponents, New Yorkers use approximately 5.2 billion plastic bags per year–the vast majority of which are not recycled. The city also spends an estimated $10 million a year to transport those 100,000 tons of plastic bags to landfills each year, they said.

Mayor Bloomberg had previously proposed a similar piece of legislation that would have imposed a 6 cent tax on retailers distributing plastic bags–a policy proposal that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn did not support. But Mr. [Brad] Lander made a clear distinction today between the two pieces of legislation.

“What the mayor was actually proposing was a tax,” he said. “There are some legal questions there about whether the city actually has the power to do that or whether that takes action in Albany.”

The new proposed piece of legislation would not require this oversight from the State Legislature, but would provide the same environmentally-positive impact, Mr. Lander explained.

Part of the legislation would also include fines for stores that don’t follow the new rules, and will provide distribution of the reusable bags to lower income neighborhoods:

The bill also specifies that grocery and retail stores will be precluded from charging the fee until people are given the chance to take advantage of the citywide bag giveaways.

“We’re going to target the giveaway in lower-income neighborhoods. I think we’d actually like to do a meaningful amount of that through the grocery stores,” Mr. Lander explained.

Restaurants would be exempt from the rule and stores that break the rules twice would be slapped with $250 fines.

The charging for bags practice is already in place right here in Southern Brooklyn at the new Aldi Foodmarket (3785 Nostrand Avenue). Politicker also pointed out that similar legislation is present in other cities, including San Francisco and Washington D.C.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which is a real lobbying group that represents bag manufacturers, unsurprisingly came out against the proposed legislation:

“New York City residents already pay among the highest taxes in the nation. A 10-cent per bag tax would be a detriment to hardworking families and businesses trying to make ends meet,” said the group’s chair, Mark Daniels. “The proponents of this bill are misinformed and largely rely on science that has been hijacked by environmental activists. A grocery bag tax pushes shoppers toward less sustainable options, like reusable bags, which cannot be recycled, are made from foreign oil and imported at a rate of 500 million annually.”

“If lawmakers are interested in protecting the environment, they should consider the facts and concentrate on meaningful legislation to boost proper reuse and disposal of grocery bags,” he said.

The question remains if the City Council bends to the will of America’s powerful bagging interests.

CORRECTION (8/22/13 10:42 a.m.): The previous version of this article suggested that there would be a vote today. The legislation is solely being introduced today and will have a hearing at a later date, possibly followed by a vote.

Sheepshead Student Jihad Teeba (center) (Photo courtesy of Brian Scios)

Sheepshead Student Jihad Teeba (center) (Photo courtesy of Brian Scios)

A Sheepshead Bay High School (3000 Avenue X) took home top honors at the 18th annual Quality of Life INNOVATIONS (QLI) Awards Ceremony. The QLI program, which invites students to tackle and attempt to solve real world problems, honored Jihad Teeba for her work in studying the hazardous effects of batteries that aren’t properly disposed of.

In a press releaes, QLI documented Teeba’s impressive work and research:

Jihad confronted the improper disposal of batteries and the impact this has on the environment and public health. Her extensive research included the hazards associated with button-cell batteries that are swallowed by thousands, including children, each year. 180,000 tons of batteries are discarded every year in the US. 81 percent of respondents to her student survey noted they have thrown out batteries in a garbage bin rather than a recycling container. Jihad’s solutions include creating drop-off sites in residential areas, an awareness campaign, and greater enforcement of existing New York State laws requiring merchants to accept used rechargeable batteries for recycling.

“Too many people fail to recycle,” commented Jihad. “They need better access to recycling boxes and drop-off centers.”

Congratulations to Jihad for her accomplishment and for helping raise awareness over proper battery recycling.

NYC’s recycling bin mascots look trashy. Get it?! (Source:

The city wants you to know that there are some commonly used household and automotive products that can be harmful to you, your family, city workers, and the environment if improperly stored, used, or discarded, so the New York City Department of Sanitation is holding a SAFE Disposal Event on April 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (rain or shine).

The event, which will be taking place in all five boroughs, will provide city residents with a one-stop method to get rid of potentially harmful household products. The only one in Brooklyn will be held inside Prospect Park at Park Circle, corner of Parkside Avenue and Prospect Park Southwest (cars approach from Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Road).

Only New York City residential waste will be accepted at this NYC SAFE events (no business or institutional waste permitted). No commercial vehicles will be allowed and residents must provide proof of NYC residency. For safety reasons, attendees are not permitted to unload their vehicles outside of the event area. Also, due to the popularity of this event, there may be extended wait times.

The blue and green recycling bin mascots will make appearances at all the SAFE disposal events. If you cannot attend any of the events, learn more about these harmful household products.

To learn more — and there is a lot to learn — about this event, click here.

“Bullet Points” is our format for Community Board 15 meeting coverage, providing takeaways we think are important. Information in Bullet Points is meant only to be a quick summary, and some issues may be more deeply explored in future articles.

Councilman Fidler Lays Out Green Vision For Coastal Protection: If anyone thinks a seawall will protect Southern Brooklyn from future Sandy-like tidal surges, they need look no further than Sea Gate to put that false theory to rest, Councilman Lew Fidler told Community Board 15 at their meeting last night.

“A lot of people think that you can just build a wall and that will solve all the problems. I suppose if you know people in Sea Gate, you can ask them whether or not that solved their problems,” he said.

Fidler added that the cost of erecting a seawall around the southern end of New York City would be around $5 billion, a hefty price tag for an uncertain solution.

Instead, Councilman Fidler, who said he has held and attended numerous City Council committee hearings on Superstorm Sandy and preparations for future threats, said the city should fight nature with nature.

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Source: BrokenSphere via WIkimedia Commons

Styrofoam is perhaps one of the most space-aged products mankind has ever invented. But, though the stuff is soft, lightweight and relatively durable, its also a dangerous environmental hazard. Because of this, the Sanitation Department is looking for a city-wide ban on the product, according to a report by DNA Info.

The legislation being proposed would place the focus of the ban on businesses and not consumers.

“This would not be something that the consumer would have to deal with,” said deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability Ron Gonen, “From a pure dollars-and-cents standpoint, it costs us money to dispose of Styrofoam in a landfill. It’s also unhealthy for the environment. It doesn’t break down properly.”

Instead, the ban would fine or heavily tax businesses that continue to order and distribute Styrofoam in large quantities, forcing them to find more environmentally favorable alternatives.

“We’re either going to ban your product or packaging, or make you pay to have it sent to a landfill,” Gonen said.

Councilman Lew Fidler, who had expressed support for a ban in the past, reaffirmed his support for the new ban proposal.

“I would love to move this bill forward, as it would be a help to both our environment and to our businesses through tax incentives,” Fidler said in a released statement.

Mayor Bloomberg and Comissioner Benepe feeing a tree into a chipper

Tired of kicking around the Christmas tree, and sweeping up all the dead needles on your floor? Well, the city will soon kick off its annual mulching event to take that timber off your hands.

You can take part in the MulchFest on January 7 and 8. MulchFest recycles Christmas trees by turning them into wood chips. The same wood chips will be used to nourish trees and plants on streets and gardens citywide. Or, if you want, you can take home your very own bag of mulch to use in your backyard or to make a winter bed for a street tree. Last year, approximately 17,000 Christmas trees were recycled.

Marine Park has a chipping site at Avenue U and East 33rd Street. It will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There are also several drop-off locations, where you can leave your tree anytime until January 8. For a list of locations, look here.

Of course, you can also place your trees curbside until January 14.

Please remember to remove all ornaments, lighting, stands, tinsel and other decorations before bringing your tree to a site or leaving it at the curb.

For any further information regarding locations of chipping or drop off sites, click here.

Passover will be here before we know it, but before we all start signing “Dayenu,” Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz is co-sponsoring an Electronic Waste/Sneakers/Clothing & Textile Recycling Day, to help us safely and responsibly dispose of unwanted items in our homes — just in time for Passover cleaning.

The Recycling Day, scheduled for April 10 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will be held curbside at the Sephardic Community Center, 1901 Ocean Parkway and Avenue S.

Items considered acceptable for recycling are:

  • Electronic waste: computers, monitors, printers, televisions, cell phones, fax machines (no household appliances, refrigerators or air conditioners)
  • Old athletic shoes (no metal cleats, flip flops, boots or dress shoes)
  • Clothing, linens, and other textiles that are too worn out to give away

For more, contact Linda Eber at 718-954-3154 or or the Lower East Side Ecology Center at 212-477-4022 or


Councilman Lew Fidler unveiled details of a hotly anticipated bill requiring community input before bike lane implementation.

“Bike lanes drop out of the sky without any notice to the community and they’re based on a master plan that’s more than 10 years ago,” Fidler told the 61st Precinct Community Council’s September meeting. “That plan is out of date and the community should at least have the opportunity before we go through the expense of changing our streets.”

The legislation, which the councilman said is still being drafted, comes in the wake of outcry from his Canarsie constituents to a planned bike lane on East 94th Street and East 95th Street. Sheepshead Bites was the first to report that he was considering such a bill.

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