Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fair or Foul: How Should NYC Get Rid of Garbage?

New York City is proposing a new garbage transfer station on East 91st Street at the East River. This is a dense residential area, and the residents are not exactly thrilled by the idea of a ten-story garbage facility nearby. The city claims this will reduce traffic and emissions, and that it is geographically fair:
Despite the host of complaints from both Lappin and area residents, Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor's office, said the Upper East Side station will keep more trucks off the road, which will cut down on pollution and the rates of asthma.
"Our plan is going to ensure each borough has some responsibility for its own garbage and move garbage via barges instead of trucks, reducing emissions and traffic,” he added.
This is all fine and good, but this plan will cost more than twice an alternative plan to truck the garbage to New Jersey, which is where it will end up anyway. From the NYC IBO report:
Based on IBO’s analysis, the present value of the twenty-year cost of exporting under interim contracts to transfer stations in New Jersey is $218.9 million, compared with $554.3 million for export at the East 91st MTS. We estimate that the cost per ton in the first year the new facility
could be operating is $90 for the interim plan and $238 for the East 91st MTS. As construction of
the East 91st MTS is part of the broader state mandated-Solid Waste Management Plan which
sought to balance fiscal costs, environmental impacts and concerns of communities across the city,
any option that did not include construction of the plant would require modification of the SWMP
by the administration and approval by the City Council and New York State.
The IBO report did not estimate environmental costs, but I do not expect environmental benefits to be greater than $230 million. In part this is because the MTS will increase local pollution and noise, mitigating some of the tailpipe reductions. Overall, though, it certainly doesn't seem fair to build the most expensive option just so Manhattan takes "some responsibility" for its garbage.  

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