The City has issued an RFP for a pilot “waste-to-energy” facility. Thermal waste-to-energy (WTE) is the cousin of incineration, part pf a broader group of “thermal conversion” technologies such as gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma incinerators that use heat to convert municipal solid waste into a synthetic gas, and then burn it to generate energy.
The City’s Phase 3 study identifies 9 potential locations for the facility, 2 of which are on Newtown Creek: Phelps Dodge and National Grid. Here’s a link to a report detailing our serious concerns about using thermal conversion for disposing of solid waste in our community.
Our understanding of WTE is that it happens best within a system where waste is heavily regulated – where toxics, plastics and metals are aggressively diverted. That’s the case for some of the european WTE examples that the city is pointing to, but it is not the system we are currently operating here. Any thermal technology with toxins going in is going to have toxics coming out somehow…its not magic.
At NCA we support diversification of the waste industry that targets prevention, reuse and recycling to help stem the tide of waste associated with virgin resource extraction (where most waste is created that the consumers don’t see) and actually generate more local jobs and less environmental harm than disposal sites such as landfill, incineration and its cousin, WTE. Instead of this investment in WTE, we would like to see the Mayor focus on his standing commitment to fully reopen the city’s network of Marine Transfer Stations, a move that would more equitably distribute the current trash burdens that are disproportionately focused on the Newtown Creek and South Bronx. We support the use of marine transit for all bulk goods, because it reduces truck impacts on the residential communities that surround Newtown Creek’s industrial core.
NCA, along with a broad base of organizations committed to garbage equity, signed on to a recent letter to Mayor Bloomberg outlining out concerns and opposition to this approach. We will be watching this issue closely.