As part of the effort to raise consciousness about the solid waste crisis in New York City, ALIGN and a growing coalition of community, labor, and policy organizations are coordinating the North American premiere of Trashed, a documentary film about the impact of solid waste on public health, the climate, and the environment. The premiere event will feature the film’s director, Candida Brady, and the film’s narrator, Jeremy Irons, and will be co-hosted by ALIGN, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. The event will also bring together labor organizations such as the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, the Teamsters Joint Council 16 and Laborers Local Union 108, which represent waste and recycling workers in New York City, the Service Employees International Union Local 32 BJ, which represents building service workers in New York City, and community organizations such as Make the Road New York, the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park, and many others.
While New York City has been touted as a leader in sustainability in sectors like green building and green transportation, it lags behind in solid waste management. The system in place to handle the staggering amount of waste generated in the City (14 million tons in 2011) is fraught with problems: low recycling rates (the abysmally low residential recycling rate of 15 percent has been described as the “weak link in the City’s green agenda”) across waste categories, inefficient collection of commercial waste by the private sector, poor working conditions at privately-run waste processing facilities, a disproportionate environmental burden of waste handling placed on low-income communities of color in the outer boroughs, and high and rising costs of waste export to polluting out-of-state landfills and incinerators.
In the last six months, the coalition has been developing a waste and recycling campaign that places workers and communities at the center. The groups are devising strategies for achieving triple bottom line—environmental, economic, and social—objectives through increased recycling and a more socially and environmentally just system of waste and recycling collection and processing in New York City.