A Wasted Opportunity

The commercial sanitation industry’s recycling rate fell to 21% over the last year, a new report finds, undermining New York City’s efforts to achieve zero waste by 2030. Leading cities, such as Seattle and San Francisco, recycle at rates three

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Worker Stories: Plinio Cruz

Plinio Cruz is a sanitation worker who has been in the commercial waste industry for the last 10 years. He works long nights in midtown Manhattan picking up waste from the city’s restaurants, offices and other businesses. As a Bronx native and hardworking Teamster, Plinio is proud to be able to provide for his family and help keep New York clean, but he worries about a lot of the other non-union drivers he sees out on the road at night.

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Worker Stories: Allan Henry

Allan Henry has been a commercial sanitation worker for the last 28 years, and he can feel it. “My body is shot. My left wrist is bad, my knees are bad, my ankles are bad. Every day, everything hurts, it's just normal,” says Allan. Sanitation regularly ranks as one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. Any garbage bag could contain razor sharp objects or hazardous chemicals.

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Community Member Stories: Kellie Terry, THE POINT Community Development Corporation

Kellie Terry is the executive director of the Point Development Community Development Corporation located in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. Growing up in the area, Kellie witnessed firsthand how commercial waste has impacted her community, which inspired her to move back after college. Over 14,000 families, mostly low-income and communities of color, live next to 15 different waste transfer stations and are subjected every day to 15,000 trucks hauling toxic-smelling waste.

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Small Business Stories: Kari Brown, Lark Café

Kari Brown is the owner of Lark Café, located in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. She lives very close to the cafe and is proud that her business has become a community gathering spot, hosting sing-alongs and story times for families in the neighborhood.

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Small Business Stories: Naama Tamir, Lighthouse Restaurant

Naama Tamir owns the Lighthouse Restaurant in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn with her brother. They opened the restaurant four years ago to serve as a beacon—to bring people together for healthy, delicious food in a community atmosphere. One of the things that Naama most appreciates about living and working in Brooklyn is the sense of community, and she runs her business with eye towards giving back to the community.

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Community Member Stories: Sarah Martin

Sarah Martin has lived in Harlem for nearly sixty years and has seen a lot of changes during that time. There are many things that keep her living in the neighborhood, but she also admits, “I don’t like walking around the area: the smell, the garbage, the trash—the quality of life that a lot of us are living leaves a lot of room for improvement.”

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Don’t Waste LA

Resolving our society’s trash problem is one of the major environmental challenges of our time. In Los Angeles County, this crisis has reached urgent proportions. As one of the largest waste markets in the country, Los Angeles County generates 23 million tons of waste and recyclable materials and sends over 10 million tons of waste to landfills each year. Many of the remaining landfills in the county will reach capacity and close in the coming years, and officials project that as early as 2014, we will be making more trash than our landfills can handle. The City of Los Angeles creates a third of the county’s waste that goes to landfills and therefore has a major role to play in addressing this crisis. Recognizing this, the City has set an ambitious and worthy goal of becoming a zero waste city by 2030. However, reaching this goal will be impossible without reforming the dysfunctional and inefficient trash collection and processing system for the City’s businesses and large apartment complexes. Reforming this system is key to reaching not only the City’s recycling goals but also its goal of creating new green jobs in the recycling sector. In the midst of one of the worst economic crises in modern history, the City of Los Angeles’ unemployment rate stands at an alarming 14 percent. By raising standards for the waste industry, the City can create good green jobs to put people back to work, bring families out of poverty and rebuild the local economy. Report provided by LAANE.

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Tweets from the Streets