Moving trash from businesses, construction sites and residential homes is a big industry that impacts the environmental health of communities, treatment of workers and local economies. Exploring these interconnections to develop a comprehensive analysis of the opportunities to create change was the focus of a convening hosted by the Partnership in mid-March at the New York offices of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Waste Streams From Across the Country Converge
“Our partners are becoming experts in their regional waste hauling and processing industry and making connections with advocates from across the country to further their understanding,” said Leslie Moody, executive director of the Partnership. The meeting opened with an overview of the current “waste stream” by researcher Sebrina Owens-Wilson of the Partnership. “Although the system looks different from city to city, we can distill common features and identify key players who impact how waste moves through our country,” shared Owens-Wilson.
Connecting Experiences and Investing in Research
The convening included funders and experts from the Rockefeller Foundation, Columbia University, Economic Policy Institute, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), and Public Welfare Foundation, as well as environmental justice advocates. New York Environmental Justice Alliance, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Center for Popular Democracy shared compelling stories of injury and contaminant exposure animated the health risks facing low-wage and predominantly immigrant workers in New York and Boston. Labor leaders from the Teamsters and SEIU shared lessons on the challenges to organizing and the lack of workplace protections. Completing the picture, partners from Denver, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Oakland shared insights from their research on the regulatory environment and major players in their respective regions, identifying potential organizing opportunities for creating change.
The convening marked the first time a broad coalition of stakeholders from around the country met to explore and share insights on the trash industry.
Identifying Opportunities to Improve Jobs and Health
“Waste streams have become toxic for both our environment and economy. Rethinking this system begins with a deep understanding of what is happening in all sectors and connecting environmental health with job quality and safety,” said Moody in closing the meeting. “The key take-away from our conversation is clear: transforming the waste industry can improve our communities for the better.”
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