Increases volume of waste removed from city
When New York City decided to develop ways for residents to dispose of household hazardous waste safely, they turned to Veolia Environmental Services (Veolia). Five locations are open, one in each borough, where residents can drop off designated household hazardous waste one day each week. Veolia also stages collection events in all five boroughs every spring for the same purpose.
Permanent collection locations:
The drop-off locations are located at a New York City Department of Sanitation garage or maintenance facility in all boroughs. “Two or three dozen people show up at each location every week to drop off their waste,” says Rich Johnsen, Veolia's program manager for the project. “We send a truck and a crew once every other month and take out 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of material.”
Annual location events:
For the spring collection events, it is always difficult to predict the level of participation. One event in each borough is staged, and they all consistently receive positive feedback following the events. Anyone can bring hazardous waste to be disposed of, and there are several types of waste that are accepted. Veolia is in charge of the household hazardous waste. The New York City Department of Sanitation Environmental Police Unit handles medication and DEA controlled substances. As the coordinator for a state and local mandate requiring manufacturers of electronics to take back their products free of charge, SIMS Recycling Solutions gathers the electronics.
“Veolia helped us develop the plan that’s required to go to the state to get approval on the collection events,” notes David Hirschler, Deputy Director of Waste Prevention for the New York City Department of Sanitation.
“We met with all the site partners, and Veolia talked about how they would be handling the materials, the set-up and the layout. They coordinated all of the logistics for collecting from vehicles, establishing tent sorting areas, providing carts and alerting other groups about electronics and pharmaceuticals pick-ups.”
2012 collection events:
Each event in 2012 was slightly different. The Manhattan event was located in Union Square Park where five subway lines converge for easy access. “It rained 2.7 inches while we were there,” remembers Johnsen. “In Manhattan, we had a lot of people coming in cabs and by subway, carrying household hazardous waste and electronics. There were close to 1,000 participants. We were on the north side of the park, and the Occupy Wall Street people were on the south side of the park.”
The Queens event ran into the most problems with logistics. “The event opened at 10:00 a.m.,” notes Johnsen. “At 9:30 there was a line ten blocks long with people waiting to drop off their waste — ten blocks going through the streets of New York City, blocking traffic. We collected ten times what we were told to plan for. The city is looking at new sites and other ways to improve operations for next year.”
Veolia was able to adjust their staff and their whole set-up to address the problems at the Queens event,” adds Hirschler. “Our entire layout was assuming 90% vehicles, and then all of a sudden it was probably 50/50 vehicles and pedestrian traffic. It was necessary to adjust the staff, redo the walk-in area and keep everything organized in a safe manner, and it had to be done quickly. That was probably the most impressive shift I’ve seen!”
“Staten Island was the largest collection event,” says Johnsen. “After Queens, the city upped our staffing requirements, and we changed some of our site planning, so everything went smoothly. The line probably didn’t exceed 30 minutes, as opposed to an hour-plus in Queens. Everyone was willing to wait in line.”
The Brooklyn event was in Prospect Park. “There were horses walking through the park while we were collecting the waste, a beautiful tree lined park surrounded by high-rise buildings,” remembers Johnsen.
Over 600,000 pounds of material were amassed during the five collection events in 2012. The majority of the material has been recycled or blended for fuel. A small percentage was incinerated. Bimonthly volumes at stationary locations total 20,000 to 30,000 pounds.