On Monday, Coquille and I attended the monthly Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board meetings. SWABs were created in each borough with Local Law 19 to ensure community input on important waste management issues, such as where waste transfer stations should be placed, what should be recycled, etc.
We were invited to share our experience with recycling in schools as a follow-up to the City Hall Recycling in Schools Hearing. Brooklyn SWAB showed a lot of interest in this issue and as a result is developing a subcommittee that will be meeting on Saturday, July 19th at 10am in order to step-up communications with the Department of Education as they enter they enter into process of revising the DOE Chancellor's Regulations on Waste Management. If you are interested in attending, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The following is an outline of the ideas discussed at the meeting:
First, Ken Diamondstone, the chair of the SWAB who also testified at the Hearing, summed up the problem by saying the main issues with recycling in schools are: lack of coordinators, lack of money for supplies, problems with collection, need for comprehensive environmental and recycling education, and ongoing issues with custodians and cleaners.
The topics discussed at the meeting were:
1. REGULATIONS: As a result of pressure put on the DOE during City Council Hearing on School Recycling, the DOE's Division of School Facilities is scheduled to rewrite the DOE Regulations on Waste Management over the summer. From what we understand Jeffrey Shear, who testified at the Hearing, is heading up this project with the assistance of Chip Stamm. Coquille and I have both called Chip Stamm in order to find out how they have designed the revision process. We are very concerned they are going to quickly rewrite them without taking the time to involve all constituents. We are asking them to form a Consortium involving: teachings, recycling coordinators, custodians, cleaners, administrators, and Dept. of Sanitation to ensure the development of an effective system and buy-in. It was suggested we contact Councilmember Robert Jackson, the Chair of the Education Committee, and ask him to contact Mr. Stamm about this. Perhaps other people can push for this Consortium as well: Councilmember Michael McMahon, Chairman of the Council's Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, Carmen Cognetta, and David Hurd, the Director of Office of Recycling Outreach and Education with CENYC. The new Regulations should include: the development of school-based recycling plans; mandatory training for custodians, cleaners, staff, and students; environmental education; the inclusion of a recycling coordinator on the staff of every school as a paid position, at least for one or two periods per day; district-wide training for recycling coordinators; and district-wide and borough-wide recycling coordinating positions.
2. ACCOUNTABILITY: How will schools be held accountable? Maybe recycling could be part of the Quality Review, or there should be a separate Recycling Review or Audit? What about the chancellor? (I give him a horrible rating on this issue because he has failed to update enforce the current Regulations and update them and he's never responded to any of my letters.)
* School-based recycling coordinators must be part of the school budget. They should have a job descriptions they are held accountable for, which could include writing a school-based recycling plan, implementation, education, and managing collection of materials. It could also include writing grants and applying for awards, such as Dept. of Sanitation Golden Apple Awards, which includes and being inspections and evaluations. They should also attend regular theme-based district-wide meetings (monthly) with other recycling coordinators, which would include the opportunity to discuss their school's recycling programs, and share problems and solutions. This position does not need to be full time and works well when a couple periods a week are built into his or her teaching schedule.
3. MONEY: How will the DOE pay for collection, mechanization, school coordinators, custodians, and supplies? One way is through the savings of throwing less garbage away and earning money through recycling. How can we show that recycling in schools will save money and pay for itself? We need the DOE or DOS to perform a current Waste Audit and a Waste Characterization Study for schools to find out what and how much they are throwing away. Who will do it and how can we push for that to be done? Perhaps the NYC Comptroller, William Thompson, Jr., could help us.
4. COMMITTEE: Coquille and Micki are working on organizing meetings for next year (once per month). We are still trying to find meeting space and time. We need people's input on this since we want the meetings to be well attended, so we will need a time and place that works well for people. According to the DOE testimony by Jeffery Shear, the DOE has 372 recycling coordinators. Are we on that list? Who is on that list? Can we get a copy since maybe those coordinators would want to attend our meetings? We need to contact them again to get a copy of the list.
5. LAWSUIT: Should the DOE be sued for not complying with Local Law 19, which mandates recycling in New York City? Can we find a pro bono lawyer pursue DOE for breaking the recycling laws for 19 years? Perhaps we should contact Public Advocate Mark Green, or the current Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum? What about NRDC?
6. PRIVITIZATION: What about contracting with private recycling agencies to collect recyclables from the DOE? Can schools make money doing this? Who wants to call VISY to find out if this is possible? Maybe Micki and Coquille can start doing this a pilot program in their schools next year? Who would have to give them permission? How would this work? Someone from NRDC said that it would be illegal to do this since the City owns the garbage and it would be like stealing. Is this true?
7. OUTREACH: Who else should be try to get in touch with and what should we ask them to do? Should we get the Teacher Union in on this? Who should we call from the union? Randi Weingarten? Should the State government be in on this? What if we call Governor Paterson's office? What about Robert Lange, the Director of the Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling with the Department of Sanitation?
8. COLLECTION: We must have mechanized collection or daily pick-up because we do not have the space to store materials on non-collection days. It is also considered a fire and safety hazard.
There are so many things to do, maybe we could each find a topic we are most interested in and volunteer to work toward that end.
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