QSWAB Blog

Report from Our First ZOOM Meeting!

The QSWAB held its first ZOOM meeting on 3/25/20 in response to the shelter-in-place directive related to COVID-19. To vote on what topics we should focus on in future meetings, take our first – and fast poll.

It was a great meeting featuring Mary Parisen and Mary Arnold from Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions (CURES), who spoke about CURES determined advocacy efforts to ensure the complete containerization of waste-by-rail export from Long Island as it passes through Queens communities and across New York State, as well as ensuring that the trains performing this work reflect the most advanced and cleanest technologies available.

The evening also featured M/WBE business owner Dianna Rose. Dianna is a social entrepreneur and the owner of Jars of Delight, a zero-waste catering and meal-prep company. Founded in the fall of 2017, Dianna took a simple idea — meals served in classic mason jars — and turned it into a successful company that now serves the entire NYC metro. Dianna discussed the challenges to her business in light of COVID-19 and her search for places to donate her food waste to ensure it is composted, even in this challenging environment.

QSWAB members from GrowNYC and Big Reuse talked about the change to food scrap and clothing drop-off collections due to COVID-19. While some suggested that neighbors who have DSNY brown bins offer to share their bins with others during this time, it was agreed that to limit the spread of the virus, we can’t recommend that practice at this time. We instead encourage people to try to reduce their own food waste where possible (i.e., use scraps to make soup stock) and to freeze waste until the policy changes.

Local nonprofits like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine are feeling the impact of COVID-19 too with fewer donations and volunteers. To support them during this period, people are encouraged, if they’re able, to make a donation this week to the organization when RLC’s partners at Global Giving are offering to match all donations of up to $50 at 50%.   This means you can donate $50 today, and your impact will be that of a $75 donation which is over 750 lbs of food rescued and over 600 meals provided for the hungry.   This match is part of Global Giving’s Little by Little campaign, which is meant to encourage unique donors and also makes available additional bonus grants to RLC if we are a leader in number of unique donations or funds raised.

Matt Civello from the Manhattan SWAB spoke about the recent push back to plastic bag ban bills in New York and across the country with various media outlets reporting misleading and unproven reports about reusable bags and their purported risk of spreading the virus. Given the lack of social distancing just outside major grocery stores right now, we question whether plastic bags are really the biggest problem, especially when the trucks and warehouse and related resources used to ship and store these bags could be more productively used for medical and other supplies of greater need. We were also grateful to have Shari Rueckl from the Brooklyn SWAB in attendance to share her insights on how the SWABs can work together in these challenging times.

The QSWAB is determined to help promote and support green and zero-waste small businesses in Queens at all times, but especially now during the pandemic. We have started a page on our website to highlight these businesses and encourage local electeds to support these companies in any future loan or grant offerings because they encourage green jobs and support a green economy. Please send business names our way to help build out that page!

In light of many Earth Day events being cancelled, the QSWAB is looking for YOUR IDEAS for how we can use social media instead (e.g., creating videos, webinars, etc.) to send out positive messages about how people can improve the environment through zero waste practices, even from their own home.

Want to stay in the loop about our upcoming Zoom meetings, follow us on social media or subscribe to the QSWAB Google Group.

COVID-19 Resource Guide

In an effort to use our platform to expand our impact and ensure that we are helping Queens residents by providing access to resources, we are sharing a PDF containing links of resources related to food, health, employment, and skill training that may be relevant in addition to those narrowly focused on waste.

Reach out if you know of other resources we can share.

DOWNLOAD THE RESOURCE GUIDE HERE.

Our Recent Testimony in Support of Int. 1942 and Int. 1943 – CORE Act

TESTIMONY OF THE QUEENS SOLID WASTE ADVISORY BOARD ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

Hearing on Intros. 1942 and 1943, the CORE Act, to be held on June 15, 2020, 1 p.m.

Good afternoon Chairman Reynoso and members of the Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee. My name is Wylie Goodman and I am the Chair of the Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board Organizing Committee (QSWAB). I am here today to testify on behalf of our organization regarding the #SaveOurCompost campaign and Intros. 1942-2020 and 1943-2020 proposed, respectively, by CM Powers and CM Reynoso.

It is in this spirit that we advocate for the immediate restoration of FY21 funding for the New York City Compost Project (which impacts Queens Botanical Garden and Big ReUse), GrowNYC’s organics and textile drop-offs (impacting four farmers’ markets, eight commuter drop-offs, and one NYCHA drop-off site in Queens), and DSNY-led e-waste collection events as well as passage of the CORE Act to guarantee every Queens community district has equal opportunity to put residential organic material (food scraps, yard waste, and food-soiled paper) to productive use to benefit their green spaces and safely recover textiles, which represent 6% of New York City’s waste stream, rather than sending both to landfill (62%) or incineration (21%), where they harm our environment by increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

We understand that the proposed cuts were made as a result of the nearly $9 billion budget gap predicated by COVID-19. While we recognize the enormity of the pandemic on the City’s economy, we feel strongly that austerity measures that suspend the community composting subsidy and reduce funding for recycling outreach; eliminate entirely funding for GrowNYC’s Zero Waste Programs and the NYC Compost Project — which affects eight nonprofits that provide public composting and recycling services and education to New Yorkers citywide, 170 Food Scrap drop-off sites across five boroughs, six community composting facilities, compost distribution for urban agriculture and stewardship, and Zero Waste education and outreach — will only further exacerbate health and quality of life disparities linked to race and income and is thus the wrong response to this crisis.

However, to take the argument at its face, we will use our time to challenge the fiscal rationale for these cuts by showing that purported savings will be offset or outweighed by negative economic and environmental costs in parallel. We will conclude our time by contending that, even if the current programs are spared, funding a robust and clearly articulated CORE Act is still necessary to expand recycling benefits equitably across the city.

The programs now at risk cost New York City approximately $7 million per year. This represents one half of one percent of the NYC Department of Sanitation’s entire $1.75 billion budget and one tenth of one percent of the City’s budget. Once cut, however, this money will not simply be recouped. That is because nearly 100 New Yorkers employed by these programs will lose their jobs. New York City recently applied for a $4 billion federal loan to cover the ballooning cost of unemployment benefits. In other words, expenses to support furloughed workers, along with lost tax revenue, and dampened economic multiplier effects across businesses these organizations and workers purchase from must also be included in the City’s cost-benefit analyses to justify these program suspensions. There will also be additional costs around waste export. In 2019, the City spent $411 million disposing of nearly 2.5 million tons of residential, school, and governmental trash to landfills — just over $164 per ton. That same year, the programs collected nearly 16,680 tons of textiles at drop-offs; diverted 2,300 tons of organics from landfills; and gathered 1,056 tons of material at e-waste events. Transporting these materials to landfills in the new scenario will cost approximately $3.34 million, thus reducing the $7 million savings by nearly half. It should also be noted that export costs are projected to increase to $421 million by 2021.

We also need to look at sunk capital and related costs highlighted in DSNY’s 2019 Strategic Plan. These include construction at the Staten Island Compost Facility to increase local and regional processing of food and yard waste and contract procurement to install an aerated static pile compost system; a three-year study examining energy production from food waste by the Department of Environmental Protection, Waste Management, and National Grid that, if implemented, would support up to 250 tons per day of food waste co-digestion at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant; and a community composting facility in Gowanus ready to accept three tons of material per week and serve as a community education and engagement center. This costly infrastructure and costs to bring it online, left dormant for a year, will require that much more personnel and other-than-personnel expenditures to be reactivated after a long delay.

There are also soft costs (marketing, supplies, personnel) that were expended on DSNY’s Make Compost, Not Trash campaign, which last year reached communities such as Queens Districts 5 and 13. These programs aimed to increase participation in the curbside organic brown bin program — another program lost, although not the focus of this testimony.  Among the successes of that initiative: in two months the program recruited 50 volunteers to canvas more than 1,200 households; hosted six community meetings and five special events; enrolled 38 buildings for organics service; and engaged thousands of residents. Last year, DSNY also held 532 Zero Waste education events, distributed 2,000 tons of compost, and enrolled 3,012 buildings in organics collection participation, and expanded the food scrap drop-off program to 165 sites, up from 113 the year before. Those successes? They will be lost to the trash heap of history if a year passes without community engagement which will lead, again, to more money needing to be spent on renewed education when programs come online in FY 2022.

Finally, tangible and measurable social and environmental benefits will fall to the wayside with these programmatic cuts. Among them no composting of 2,650 tons of food scraps and garden waste each year; nor distribution of 500 tons of finished compost to 12,000 residents; nor care of 500 street trees with finished compost; nor engagement of 7,200 volunteers providing over 30,000 hours of volunteer community service. Again, costs that have not fully been considered in the City’s simple number-crunching calculations.

Harder to measure, but even more important, is the cost of organic and inorganic material re-entering our waste stream on that most critical of indicators: climate change. Once sent to landfills or incinerated, the methane gas released by this material is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The environmental and economic cost to our City for years to come will be astronomical.

There is another option. Rather than resort to short-term panic selling of community composting, textile collections, and e-waste diversion in light of CVID-19, we need to reinvest in the Mayor’s 2015 OneNYC goal to “become the most resilient, equitable, and sustainable city in the world and send at least 90 percent less waste to landfills by the year 2030.”

That means making organics collection mandatory, as Council Speaker Johnson recommended before the pandemic, which would not only save money long-term, as it already does in Seoul, South Korea, a city of 10 million, but make New York an environmental leader rather than laggard.

The majority of NYC’s private waste transfer stations are concentrated in three New York City neighborhoods, including one in Queens: Jamaica. Two zip codes in Jamaica rank 10th and 11th, respectively, in terms of Citywide positive COVID19 test rates at 66.7% each. These predominantly low-income communities of color are already overburdened by trucks collecting and driving garbage, resulting in odor, leachate, and particulate matter with compromised air and health in parallel. If wealthier communities start to pay to have their organics taken away by these private carters with the goal of their material being virtuously composted, it is neighborhoods like Jamaica that will be hurt. Although not all health disparities co-occurring with waste inequity will be eliminated by #SavingOurCompost, Intros. 1942 and 1943 will help ensure more expansive and equal opportunities for every community district to understand and participate in meaningful waste recovery to their own benefit so long as finished materials are used to benefit neighborhood green spaces. This will significantly improve on the current system which, even when active, left huge swaths of our borough unserved.

In truth, we will soon have no choice but to adopt innovative strategies around waste generation and disposal. China no longer wants our recyclables and U.S. cities no longer want our putrescibles. If we do not solve reduce, reuse, and recycle soon, we are looking at far higher costs down the road, which the City has said it can ill afford.

In closing, cutting GrowNYC food scrap drop-offs, Compost Learning Centers, and e-waste events saves little of consequence in terms of the City’s budget. In contrast, restoring funding brings a host of social, environmental, and economic benefits that have been minimized in a rush to appear fiscally stringent. Likewise, waiting a year to restart a complex operational and logistical recycling infrastructure doesn’t flatten rising costs, it only makes them more expensive when the calendar moves another year closer to 2030 and even farther from our zero-waste goal. Pausing environmental progress and exacerbating waste inequity cannot be how we respond to this pandemic. We must do better.

Thank you Chairperson Reynoso and members of this Committee for your consideration of our testimony and thank you to the Queens Council Members who have thus farsigned onto the CORE Act — Constantinides, Grodenchik, Vallone, Van Bramer, and, as we learned before this hearing, Richards.

The Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board Organizing Committee:

Wylie Goodman, Chair
Amy Marpman, Vice-Chair

Active Members: Mary Arnold, Rachel Boeglin, Janet Kalish, Jon Klar, Susan Latham, Robert Lee, Mortimer Lawrence, Perry Leung, Gil Lopez, Jennifer McDonnell, Adam Mitchell, Kara Napolitano, Mary Parisien, Andrea Scarborough

Queens SWAB Statement in Support of Community Organics and Recycling Empowerment (CORE) Act Int. 1942-2020 + Int. 1943-2020

STATEMENT BY QUEENS SOLID WASTE ADVISORY BOARD
IN SUPPORT OF PROPOSED COMMUNITY ORGANICS AND RECYCLING EMPOWERMENT (CORE) ACT
May 13, 2020

My name is Wylie Goodman and I am the Chair of the Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board Organizing Committee. I am speaking today on behalf of my own organization as well as my fellow SWABs in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Together we represent a diverse array of residents, business owners, nonprofit representatives, and interested New Yorkers who share a common goal to serve as informed advocates to our respective Borough Presidents and City Council Members around issues of resource recovery and recycling.

According to DSNY’s 2017 Waste Characterization Study, nearly 68% of what New Yorkers throw away could instead be saved, recycled and put to productive use. This is especially true of the 34% of these materials that are organic — food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard waste — which could easily be turned into compost, a nutrient-rich substance that improves soil health, reduces erosion, and sequesters carbon to mitigate climate change.

Once trashed, however, New York City further wastes – nearly $420M per year – exporting this co-mingled residential refuse and recoverable material by truck, barge, and train to landfills around the country where it is burned or buried. The release of greenhouse gases from these sites, including methane and CO2, have the exact opposite effect of compost’s beneficial properties: it worsens climate conditions for all of us.

There is a better way.

Until recently, New York City supported programs that helped New Yorkers be active participants in the City’s mission to send zero waste to landfills by 2030, including residential curbside collection or brown bins, food scrap drop-offs, the NYC Compost Project, and e-waste recycling. Together, these programs cost New Yorkers about $27.4M per year, far less than what we spend transporting these materials to landfills ($166M) — and with far more positive results.

While we as SWAB leaders recognize that budget shortfalls precipitated by COVID-19 require the City to look critically at opportunities to cut funding to prioritize public health and safety, we also feel strongly that the money saved by suspending community composting and recycling outreach is easily surpassed by what we will pay to alternatively collect, transport, and discard these materials. Additionally, we need to consider the secondary costs of these suspensions, including negative impacts to our air quality and climate emissions and having to cushion the blow for the over 100 New Yorkers now employed in this work who will soon be without a job. More difficult to quantify but equally important, the impact on the public’s interest in participating in recycling and recovery efforts once programs restart. The result? Decades of time and money invested lost in a matter of months.

The legislation being introduced by Council Members Powers and Reynoso (Community Organics and Recycling Empowerment (CORE) Act), we believe is thus urgently needed to reinstate the most central aspects of a distributed and community-led resource recovery model and to ensure equity in this system. Like the City’s goal of having every New Yorker live within a 10-minute walk of a park, we hope that by bringing recycling and organics infrastructure and services within reach of every New Yorker, we can rebuild the resilient and sustainable City we urgently need in the wake of this pandemic.

Link to Intro. 1942-2020 for more information. (Lead sponsor CM Keith Powers)

Link to Intro. 1943-2020 for more information. (Lead sponsor CM Antonio Reynoso)

Related article in Gotham Gazette by CM Reynoso and MBP Brewer.

QSWAB Photo Gallery

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Supporting Sustainable Green Businesses

This page will be added to as we learn of green, sustainable, and zero-waste businesses in Queens and across the City that we want to encourage residents, commercial entities, and the public sector to support.

Food + Hospitality Service

Jars of Delight – Started by Dianna Rose, this catering and food prep company uses locally sourced food, reusable mason jars, and composts all food waste.

Cup Zero – Michael Cyr is a waste industry expert based in New York City. Through years in the commercial hauling industry he has learned the ins, outs, and limitations of diversion as we know it. He is now an operations consultant specializing in waste reduction and is also the founder of Cup Zero – Reusable Customized Event Cups. He provides recyclable, branded cups for event producers and offers talks about sustainability to industry partners.

Sustainable Services + Consulting

Loop Recycling – Certified MBE established in 2013, Loops R+R began as a pilot program aimed at helping communities increase recycling & sustainability efforts. Since then Loops has created local jobs, positively impacted residential, commercial, and community spaces. As the future of the environment continues to rapidly change, the challenge posed on society is to make more sustainable decisions that allow the world to adapt to the ever-changing climate. Loops R+R will continue to focus on assisting citizens, businesses and brands in creating sustainable solutions that have long term, positive global impacts.

Tote It Don’t Throw It!

The QSWAB is excited to share the impact of our Citizen’s Committee of NYC Tote-It-Don’t-Throw-It Repair and Reuse grant, supported by the Manhattan SWAB and Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

The QSWAB Organizing Committee engaged over 100 people in our borough throughout the development and implementation of the Tote-It-Don’t-Throw-It grant from our own members to community members across Queens with a special focus on Sunnyside, Ridgewood, and Southeast Queens.

We started by attending an Earth Day event hosted by NY State Senator James Sanders at which easily 100 people attended and 13 signed our sign-in sheet expressing interest in the project and participated in hands-on demonstrations while we tabled.  We also attended and showcased the project at a DSNY-sponsored NYC x ReUse Fair, at which we recruited and networked with an additional 20 individuals from the borough who were subsequently added to our mailing list and informed about workshops and meetings.  After training five QSWAB members in sewing techniques, we then offered four hands-on sewing classes at Sunnyside Community Services (September 23, 30, Oct 7 and 21) at which we engaged approximately 8 seniors and 12 youth with inter-generational after-school programming focused on the benefits of repair, reduce, and reuse.  For our final outreach event, we provided hands-on sewing experiences with community members at the Ridgewood Street Fair on October 26th.  The event attracted hundreds of community members and 20 created original tote bags using textiles we provided.

For instructions about how to make basic tote bags using recycled textiles, find our self-guided directions below:


Basic Tote

  1. Use a paper shopping bag or brown butcher paper to cut out a basic pattern that looks like the bag you want to make. Cut out a shape for the front (Pattern A) and a shape for the back (Pattern B) using a tote bag you already have as a guide. For a more complicated one, cut out long rectangles the length that you want your handles to be, adding 1/2″ on either side (length) and width for a seam allowance.
  2. Place your Pattern A on top of the T-shirt or fabric and weight it or pin it down to the pattern.
  3. Cut two pieces matched to Pattern A (front and back).
  4. Trace around the Pattern A with chalk including the open handle.
  5. To cut the handle, pinch the fabric together in the center and cut out from there.
  6. Pin the Pattern A pieces together with the “right” sides facing in.  The “right” sides are the sides you want to face out when you’re done.
  7. Sew the sides and bottom of Pattern A together using a straight stitch.  Leave a ⅜” to ⅝” seam allowance.  Leave the top of the bag open.
  8. Hem the top edge of the bag by turning the raw edge over twice using 1” of fabric. Stitch the edge down by sewing in the center of the top edge.  
  9. Turn the bag right side out, bringing the visible seams to the inside of the bag.  Leave the handle raw (un-sewn).

Basic Tote with Strap and Bottom #1

1.   Cut two pieces of Pattern B (front and back).

2.   Cut one piece of pattern C (strap).

3.   Pin the Pattern B pieces together — front and back — with “right” sides facing each other.

4.   Sew the sides and bottom together with a ⅜” to ⅝” seam allowance, leaving the top and corner cutouts open.

5.   Place your hand inside the bag and press out one of the corners so that it lies flat and forms a triangle with the end cut off.  Flatten the seams that are exposed so they lie flat, too.

6.   Pin and then sew across to create a boxed corner. Repeat on the other corner.

7.   Hem the top edge by turning the raw edge over using about 1” of fabric.  Turn over once about ¼” and then again 1/2” to 1”.  Stitch near the fold, close to the edge. 

8.   Sew the ends of Pattern C to the top of the bag, centered with the side seams or about 2” from each edge and 1 1/2” down pin the handle to the inside or outside of bag. 

7. Sew a rectangle around the edge of the handle after turning the raw edge over by sewing down one side, pivoting, and continuing around to form a rectangle.  Pivot again to sew a diagonal to make a cross to hold the handle in place.

8.  Do the same with the other side.  Pin first and check the length of the handle.

Alternative:

1. Cut handles approximately 1” wide by 27” long

2. Cut out squares to make your tote bag and sew around the bag in a U-shape.

3. Iron 1/2 “ then 1” around the top edge and then sew in place.

To box out bottom and sides:

1. Turn the bag inside out.

2. Push down inside to create a triangle at a 90-degree angle with the two seams touching each other.

3. Box out the bottom by figuring out how far you want to make the triangle (2” is good). 

4. Draw a line with chalk and pin across.

5. Check the box bottom dimensions before sewing to make sure it’s what you want.  Do the same with the other side and trim off excess at the corner.

7. Turn the bag right side out and add your handles.

Basic Tote with Handles and Bottom #2

To make the tote bag straps:

  1. Make the tote bag straps by lining up the bottom edge of the T-shirt or fabric and pinning together through both sides of the shirt.
  2. Measure about 3” from the edge and mark it by drawing a chalk line across the length of the edge (hem).  The width can be adjusted if you want a less wide handle.
  3. Cut across on the dotted line then cut the ends to create two straps.
  4. Separate the bottom piece from the T-shirt or fabric and remove the pins.
  5. Place the fabric with the seam down with the right side up (the side you want to face out).  Fold in half with the wrong side up now and pin.
  6. Sew the strip of fabric along the outer edge and remove the pins.
  7. Fold the strip of fabric in half and cut in half.  Turn the strap inside out.  Set aside to attach to the bag later.

To make the tote bag body: 

  1. Measure from the top to the bottom of the fabric or textile to determine a shape where the sides are 2” longer than the width (in other words, 10” long and 8” wide).
  2. Use a yardstick and chalk to draw a vertical length along one side of the T-shirt or fabric.  Cut along the chalk line.  If needed, do the same along the bottom of the T-shirt or fabric to make the bag the width you want. 
  3. Fold the T-shirt or fabric in half and cut along the opposite long edge.
  4. Measure across the top of the T-shirt or fabric and mark across the top with chalk. Cut across on the chalk line.  After trimming, you should have a rectangular shape.
  5. Turn the front and back pieces inside out and place one on top of the other.
  6. Pin together the top and bottom pieces along both sides and bottom.  Make sure your design inside faces up so that it matches how you want it to look when you turn it inside out.
  7. Sew the side and bottom together.  Remove the pins.
  8. Sew around the edges.
  9. To create corners, pinch the side and bottom seams together to form a triangle and pin in place. Repeat on the opposite side.
  10. Draw a chalk line across the triangle and sew across both corners.
  11. Turn the bag inside out and lay flat.
  12. Attach the strap handles to each side of the bag and sew onto the tote bag body.
  13. Finish the bag by folding over the top of the bag.  Pinning in place and sewing across the top edge to complete.  

Read Minutes from Past QSWAB Meetings

The Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board has been meeting since January 2018.

To read minutes of our past meetings, click on the links below

January 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018
August 2018
September 2018 – pending
October 2018
November 2018
December 2018

January 2019
February 2019
March 2019
April 2019
May 2019
June 2019
July 2019
August 2019 – Beach cleanup event. No monthly meeting.
September 2019 Pending
October 2019 – Working meeting: State of Waste in Queens report research.
November 2019
December 2019 – Holiday Party w/Recycled Wreath-Making

February 2020
March 2020
April 2020
May 2020