Scrap Collector: 'Trump's Trash' and the Oakland Garbage Blitz
Plus: an NYC proposal aims for increased private trash industry oversight, and a nonprofit takes on Big Plastic.
Welcome to Scrap Collector, Waste Dive's Friday round-up of insights and stories you may have missed during the week.
"MR. TRUMP, HERE’S YOUR TRASH"
The partial government shutdown has left hundreds of thousands of federal employees stranded with the consequences — and this week, two Democratic representatives from the San Francisco Bay Area dished some of it back. Over the weekend, reports McClatchy, Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman collected trash from two national parks left unstaffed by the shutdown, packed it up into boxes, and delivered the whole smelly package straight to the White House gates in a bin labeled "Trump's Trash."
"Mr. Trump, here's your trash," Speier said in front of the White House on Tuesday, according to The Hill. "We did the work of some of your employees at the National Park Service, who by the way, in our area, have a hard time making it because it's such a high-cost area."
"Soon we'll have enough trash to build a wall, perhaps," Huffman remarked to reporters at the scene, cementing his status as one-half of the sassiest political duo since the Smothers Brothers.
Police refused to take the delivery, which was ultimately hauled back to the Capitol for disposal. If left in place in front of the White House, there's a good chance it would have ultimately been swept up by the DC Department of Public Works (DC DPW), which informed Waste Dive last week that its workers are currently servicing more than 600 trash cans located on DC National Parks Service properties. Cleanup crews are heading out up to three times a day, at an estimated cost of $54,600 per week, according to DC DPW — and "[w]hether the District government will be reimbursed by the federal government for this work has not yet been determined."
In the meantime, with the partial shutdown finishing its third week, national parks across the country are confronting a steadily expanding pile of uncollected waste — or, in the case of Joshua Tree National Park, fallout that can't be so easily packed away a bin.
IN OTHER NEWS...
It's (Garbage) Blitz! — San Francisco Chronicle
Illegal trash dumping is on the rise in Oakland, California — but never fear! A new elite task force is here to sweep and keep the streets clean. While the city's pickup crews previously relied largely on a complaint-based system, the Oakland Public Works Department kicked off a more proactive pilot program 10 months ago.
These days, "Garbage Blitz" teams are going around neighborhoods collecting trash before service requests are ever called in. While it can take weeks for crews to move through entire districts, Oakland officials believe the program is acting as a dumping deterrent: in "blitzed" areas, the amount of trash collected by crews on a daily basis declined each month they were there.
The reasoning, according to Public Works Director Jason Mitchell, is simple. "We're out there cleaning more often. We're turning illegal dumping hot spots to clean spots," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "People feel more comfortable dumping on dirty streets than clean streets."
NYC proposal aims for expanded private trash industry oversight — ProPublica
A bill introduced Wednesday would give the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) — the agency overseeing New York City’s private waste industry — expanded powers over labor unions representing waste workers. Per the proposed legislation, any waste industry union would be required to disclose its officials to BIC, and any official found lacking in "good character, honesty and integrity" — i.e., those with certain criminal convictions or who have associations with organized crime — could be barred from representing workers.
The bill, which was introduced by City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, comes after a series of ProPublica reports last year highlighted legal issues surrounding multiple "independent" waste industry unions.
"Not only are workers forced to work under highly dangerous conditions, but in a number of shops, the unions that are supposed to protect these workers are mere extensions of the company's ownership," said Reynoso in a statement. "These sham unions collude with owners to prevent workers from ever securing good benefits and worker protections."
This bill, he noted, "will give BIC the tools to fully root out organized crime from the industry and ensure that unions are working for the workers and not company ownership."
Local industry associations have said they support granting BIC greater authority and previously backed legislation that includes provisions to do so; however, they remain undecided on this new proposal.
Nonprofit takes on Big Plastic — Press Release
As You Sow, a nonprofit foundation that seeks to "promote environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies," is demanding greater transparency from some of the world's largest plastic resins manufacturers. After attempts to engage Chevron, DowDupont, ExxonMobil and Phillips 66 in dialogue failed, the nonprofit filed shareholder proposals requesting that the companies release annual reports disclosing actions taken to prevent and address plastic pellet spills into waterways.
An estimated 8 million tons of plastics leak into oceans annually, and spills of plastic pellets — estimated to be the second-largest direct source of ocean microplastic pollution (recently discovered to have penetrated Earth's deepest point) by weight — account for much of the damage.
"Given what we know about the alarming rates of plastic leakage into oceans, companies can no longer hide behind vague pledges of best practices," said Conrad MacKerron, As You Sow’s senior vice president. "They need to provide prompt and detailed disclosure about specific actions taken to prevent spills, and when spills occur, information on spill size, and actions taken to clean up."
SEEN & HEARD
Watching Sopranos re-runs (with Tony minding his garbage “front” biz) when this shot appears of Waste News’ real life front page from 1/99, & story of Bklyn starting to export waste - a campaign I had already spent years fighting. Yup - that’s how long these justice fights take.. pic.twitter.com/t92FfdaPAx— Eddie Bautista (@eddiebautista08) January 6, 2019
For those studying, tracking #PFAS pollution, what @j_g_allen has called the #foreverchemicals -- I wanted to offer some key resources about the relationship btwn the atom bomb and their early research & development w/ the Manhattan Project. An #envhist thread.#PFOA #Teflon pic.twitter.com/2NcZKW5U3G— Rebecca Altman (@rebecca_altman) January 9, 2019
I asked a recycler about the latest gizmos at #CES2019. He said, “Everything I look at brings up the question "well how the hell are we going to recycle this crap now.”— Kyle Wiens (@kwiens) January 7, 2019
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