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02/27/2013 05:46 AM
Now Mayor Bloomberg Wants to Ban Styrofoam in NYC
In his final State of the City address, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced measures to continue moving aggressively on his sustainablity goals for the city.
During his 11 years as mayor, his PlaNYC cut the city's greenhouse emissions 15% (from 2005 levels).
After successfully banning transfats and very large sizes of soft drinks in the city, he's taking on styrofoam.
"One product that is virtually impossible to recycle and never biodegrades" is plastic foam, he says. "Something that we know is environmentally destructive and that may be hazardous to our health, that is costing taxpayers money and that we can easily do without, and is something that should go the way of lead paint."
He's also focused on increasing the city's pathetic recycling rate, creating an infrastructure for electric vehicles, and a resiliency plan that protects against extreme weather events.
Sharper Focus on Recycling
While San Francisco has achieved a recycling rate of 80%, and Seattle and Portland, OR hover around 60%, NYC recycles only about 15%. Bloomberg wants to double that by 2017.
Back in 2001, NYC recycled 23%, but it was Bloomberg that stopped collecting many materials to save money. Since then, he's become convinced about the value of recycling.
To make recycling easier for people, he will double the recycling bins in all five boroughs to 2000, and finalize a plastics recycling plant in Brooklyn that will accept all kinds of plastics. One of the city's biggest solar systems will be on the roof and the center will service as a state-of-the-art education center to teach children about recycling.
Importantly, the city will start recycling food waste - one of the biggest and most unnecessary parts of the waste stream. In NYC, it accounts for nearly 200,000 tons of waste a year - at a cost of nearly $80 per ton, adding up to millions of dollars a year to dispose of.
20,000 tons mixed in that food waste is styrofoam. The plan is to ban the ubiquitous packaging from use in restaurants, stores and schools. Banning it would make food recycling much cleaner, reducing those costs too.
The City Council has to approve the ban, and speaker Christine Quinn seems to favor it. "It lives forever," she told the New York Times. "It's worse than cockroaches."
Besides being toxic and non-biodegradable, plastic foam is very brittle and breaks into tiny pieces. "Getting rid of it means our parks, our streets, our waterways, will all be cleaner," Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the NY Times.
San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon have all banned styrofoam.
Expanded Use of Electric Vehicles
He wants the City Council to amend building codes so that 20% of all new public parking spaces are wired to charge electric vehicles, creating about 10,000 EV charging spaces within seven years. Right now, there are about 100 public charging spots, and another 120 for the city's EV fleet.
NYC has the third biggest EV fleet in the country. After adding 50 more EVs this year, it will have over 500 EVs. And the first six Nissan Leaf EV taxis will go into service this year.
Create A More Resilient City
NYC is already addressing this through PlaNYC, which includes $2.4 billion for stormwater management that uses green infrastructure to capture rainwater before it can flood. The city requires climate risk assessments for new developments in vulnerable areas, and is restoring 127 acres of wetlands that serve as a natural storm barrier.
Bloomberg promises that beaches and boardwalks battered by Sandy will re-open by Memorial Day weekend, when he will also deliver a resiliency plan that protects the city's critical infrastructure, that builds on a climate adaptation plan issued in 2010.
The long-term plan will include measures to quickly return power, and make sure hospitals, gas stations and transportation systems stay open. He plans to work with the state to preserving and protect more vital wetlands.
"After the storm passed, it was clear that the houses and businesses most damaged by Hurricane Sandy were built decades ago, while those that were built in the last few years or are now being built held up pretty well," says Bloomberg. "That was no accident. Our administration has fundamentally changed the way we conduct waterfront development. But Sandy raised the bar - and now we must rise to the occasion."
Watch Mayor Bloomberg's "State of the City" address:
Among the many accomplishments during his tenure, the city added record acreage to waterfront partks, planted 650,000 trees since 2007, expanded the subway system for the first time in 50 years and began ferry service, converted the entire city to heating fuel blended with biodiesel, and invested $10 billion in cleaning up New York Harbor.