Posts by Author: Rachel Kaufman

Cities Need to Take the Lead on Climate, New Report Says

The 2014 People's Climate March. (Photo by 350.org)

Without cities, the planet’s global warming will be unstoppable, a new report from the Global Covenant of Mayors says.

So the group convened 18 scientists from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C, which in October said that the world is “completely off track” (BBC’s language) to translate the policy implications into things actionable for city leaders.

The October report said that the world must drastically cut emissions to avoid living in a future where climate change has wreaked havoc on our natural world, food supply, and disaster resilience.

Cities, the report says, will play a major role in whether the world makes it to that point. After all, cities already hold half the world’s population and are expected to hold two-thirds of the world population by 2050. Continuing with business-as-usual will lead to more sprawl and, ultimately, more greenhouse gas emissions in the first 30 years of the 21st century than has occurred in all of human history.

With that uplifting thought, the report proposes some feasible options for cities: encouraging public transit, reducing food waste, and promoting solar power and battery storage.

The transition to a low-carbon economy won’t be cheap. Lowering the carbon cost of energy — say, by switching to solar power — would cost about $2.4 trillion a year for the next 20 years, the report said.

Given, however, that economists have pegged the cost of inaction on climate change as 5 percent of global GDP, or about $4 trillion a year, the upfront costs of investing seem more palatable.

And cities have already, in many cases, taken the lead on climate. It was U.S. cities (and states) that first stepped up after President Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group brings together 96 world cities to deliver on climate and clean-air goals. Washington, D.C. has switched 30 percent of its municipal electricity to wind, and Austin is at about 23 percent, CityLab reported last year. And more than a dozen U.S. cities have signed on to an RFI to potentially purchase 100,000 electric cars for city use. An order that big has the potential to shift markets.

As the IPCC report — and the new summary for city policymakers — makes clear, the time for action is now. “Unchecked, climate change will …undo much of the economic and social progress, albeit uneven, since the end of World War II and the formation of the United Nations,” the report says. Cities must act, and they must, the report says, act now.

 

Federal Agency to Study Dockless Scooter Health Risks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's headquarters in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will undertake the first epidemiological study of dockless scooters, SmartCitiesDive reports.

The agency is partnering with Austin Public Health and the Austin Transportation Department to study the health risks associated with dockless scooters.

Austin has one of the oldest and biggest dockless scooter programs in the country, with six scooter companies operating a combined 11,000 vehicles on the streets. (There’s also just around 850 dockless bikes in the city.) “The devices in the highly-trafficked downtown area compete for space with pedestrians and motorists, and users regularly can be seen attempting to weave through crowds on sidewalks, with varying levels of success,” SmartCitiesDive said.

The CDC will study injuries caused by scooters — of which there were 68 reported in just two months this fall.

To put this number into context, in just the month of October, there were 14 reported scooter crashes, the city said in a presentation about dockless scooters. During that same period there were 1,404 car crashes, four of them fatal. In October, scooter users took 275,000 trips averaging one mile apiece.

Texas Monthly adds that “the study comes at a good time.” Austin is also reconsidering its dockless scooter rules, considering raising permit prices on operators, studying governance models that would allow it to better manage the number of companies and vehicle fleet sizes allowed to operate in the city, and adjusting speed limits. The city hopes to have the new ordinance in place by February, before 70,000 people arrive for SXSW in mid-March.

Austin has not been shy about taking companies to task. Just last month the city ordered Lime to remove 1,000 scooters from its fleet for illegally parking too many of its scooters downtown, KUT reported. (Lime reported that the over-deployment downtown was unintentional, due to high demand.)

Dockless scooters have caused numerous injuries since appearing in many cities around the country, many due to rider inexperience, Vox reports. Plus, since cars and pedestrians can’t necessarily predict what a scooter will do at an intersection, there have been more collisions.

“We’re seeing these injuries daily, and at least once or twice a week we’re seeing someone who needs an urgent surgery,” Natasha Trentacosta, an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles, told the Cedars-Sinai Blog. “These can be life-changing injuries, and they can often be prevented.”

Yet elsewhere, injuries reported have been minimal. Dallas police executive assistant chief David Pughes told the city council that they’d only heard of four injuries in a roughly three-month period, the Dallas News reported.

And in San Francisco, doctors believe that useful data will only appear once they come up with a classification schema that currently does not exist: was the scooter shared or privately owned? Was the user wearing a helmet? Christopher Colwell, chief of emergency medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, said in a release announcing the taxonomy initiative that “scooter crash” is currently lumped into the catch-all category — which also includes “squirrel attack.” Doctors are hoping more specific data will inform safety regulations in San Francisco, which has just started a modest one-year pilot, after the previous free-for-all did not work out.

Safety experts remind users to use common sense, wear a helmet, and not ride while drunk.

 

Architects Create Giant Gingerbread City in London

A gingerbread house in the making. (Photo by Don LaVange CC BY-SA 2.0)

When architects trade out concrete and steel for gingerbread and licorice, they make our half-hearted attempts at holiday decorating pale in comparison.

This year marks the third year that London’s Museum of Architecture has sponsored Gingerbread City, a tasty way to envision the city of the future.

More than 60 buildings designed and created by architects, designers and engineers made entirely of gingerbread and candy grace the space at the V&A Museum in London. This city, like many non-edible ones, is master-planned: the firm Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design planned Gingerbread City, and architecture and design firms filled it in.

Reuters says the city features a high-line-esque Sugar Loop, complete with (working) licorice cable car and sugar-dusted pedestrian and bike lanes. There’s also a pub, movie theater and sports stadium, the Evening Standard said, and a rooftop vegetable garden with candy vegetables. There’s even a homeless shelter for any candy people without a roof over their heads, designed by architects Holland Harvey. The city takes up a massive amount of space, filling a whole room.

It’s a lighthearted way to end the year, but it’s also serious business for these firms. Robert Nolan, an architect at APT, told Reuters that his firm makes a lot of models at gingerbread scale, so it wasn’t all that hard to switch media — except for accidental munching of gingerbread pieces.

“We had to be very careful when making it that suddenly you might be halfway through making something and then be like ‘oh, wait, where did that piece go? Oh, we’ve actually gone and eaten it’,” Nolan said.

Another design was built by a robotic arm, showcasing Foster & Partner’s high-tech construction techniques.

Tibbalds said in a statement that the exhibition is “intended to get people who don’t normally spend much time looking at their environment to think more about the kind of places they live, work and play in, how these are created and how they impact on us all.”

“For Tibbalds, this isn’t about some dystopian vision about the future but about how real places can work for all of us and how we can live in well designed, attractive and lively places — and ideally that are a bit more long-lasting than these gingerbread ones,” Tibbalds director Hilary Satchwell told the Mirror.

 

California Will Require Solar Panels on All New Homes

In this photo file taken Monday, May 7, 2018, solar panels are seen on the rooftop on a home in a new housing project in Sacramento, Calif. California is the first state in the nation to require homes built in 2020 and later be solar powered. The Building Standards Commission voted unanimously Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, to add the energy standards to the state building code. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

California is officially the first state to require newly built homes to come with enough solar panels to offset their electricity use. The state Building Standards Commission voted unanimously to add the requirement to the state building code last week, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The new code takes effect in 2020 and covers all single-family homes as well as multifamily buildings up to three stories high. There are exceptions for houses with too-small roofs or those in the shade. An average home is expected to use 53 percent less energy under the new code than one built under the previous standards.

Solar panels can cost up to $10,000 upfront, but are expected to save at least $19,000 in reduced electricity bills over 30 years, the state energy commission executive director Drew Bohan said.

The changes adopted also beef up energy efficiency standards, requiring more insulation, more efficient windows and doors and improved ventilation, and incentivizing developers to add battery storage and more efficient water heaters to units.

Both environmentalists and industry representatives endorsed the changes, the Mercury News said.

“Six years ago, I was very fearful of this,” Bob Raymer, technical director for the state building association, told the paper. But after a compromise — in that new homes must produce enough power to offset electricity used but not natural gas — the association decided to support the move, he said.

Also supporting were members of the solar industry as well as Tesla, whose Powerwall battery is designed for home solar energy storage.

Of the 113,000 housing units being built in California a year, about 15 percent of them are being built with solar today, Vox reports, so it’s a huge boost to the industry.

Not everyone supported the new rule. Some energy wonks have pointed out that rooftop solar is a very expensive way to reduce carbon emissions; watt for watt, rooftop solar is from 2-6 times more expensive than an industrial-size solar farm, and far more expensive than building more densely near transit, toughening vehicle efficiency standards, or “almost anything else, really,” Vox said. And since California has already agreed to a statewide mandate to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, mandating rooftop solar is just shuffling around what actually gets built, the site said.

On the other hand, if California more than quintuples its solar industry, prices will likely come down — making rooftop solar more attractive in other sunny states. And at the same time, California utilities are about to switch to new pricing schemes that charge customers more for using electricity during peak times, UtilityDive reports. Homeowners who delay, say, running a load of dishes or laundry until off-peak periods — typically late at night — can get significantly cheaper electricity than if they use energy during the peak early evening periods. If electricity is about to get more expensive for those homeowners who will not or cannot shift their energy use, then solar power suddenly looks a lot more attractive.

Further, homeowners aren’t necessarily on the hook for the $10,000 price tag of a new solar install upfront. They can buy the panels outright, but they can also lease them or enter into a power purchase agreement, where they get a lower monthly electricity bill but the bulk of the savings is passed on to the owner of the panels (usually a developer or solar installer).

The move could eventually set policy throughout the country. Anne Hoskins, chief policy officer of Sunrun, the nation’s largest residential solar installation company, told The Verge in May that she doesn’t believe that states would immediately follow suit, “but I think with this example from California, policymakers across the country can see that these new homes can be efficient and cost-effective, so it’s going to be an example that will be used as a model in other states.”

 

Confusion, Potential Delays as Florida Prepares to Restore Voting Rights to Felons

Coral Nichols, vice president and co-founder of Empowered to Change Inc., works in her office in Seminole, Fla. Nichols is one of around 1.4 million Floridians who stand to get their voting rights back after passage of Amendment 4. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Florida’s Amendment 4, which restores voting rights for felons who’ve served their time, takes effect January 8. But elections supervisors say they’ve received little guidance on how to implement the law, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

County election supervisors “expressed frustration with the lack of direction from the state” at a conference about the issue, the Herald-Tribune said. State officials did say that they are not sending new convictions data to local elections officials for now, but what will happen after Jan. 8 is unclear.

Amendment 4 was approved by 65 percent of Florida voters and “automatically” restores voting rights for convicted felons if they have completed their sentences, fulfilled probation requirements and paid any restitution and court costs. The amendment excludes murders and felony sex offenders but is expected to enfranchise 1.4 million people.

Among the concerns are definitions of words in the amendment. State Division of Elections director Maria Matthews told elections supervisors at the conference, Law.com reports, that it’s not always obvious when a sentence is completed, for example. Sentences can be converted to “civil judgments,” Matthews said.

“That’s why we need this time to research it and make sure that we are providing the appropriate guidance as to what do these terms mean and how to implement the will of the people, which was their intent that, if someone has completed their sentence, that they should be able to register to vote. And that’s what we’re going to do,” Matthews said.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, said it’s up to the Legislature and the Board of Executive Clemency to provide guidance on the amendment, Law.com said. The Florida legislature does not convene until March.

Cecile Scoon, team leader on the League of Women Voters of Florida’s Amendment 4 campaign, told the Herald-Tribune there is no need for the legislature to weigh in.

“It would be an intrusion into the will of the people to enact any enacting legislation,” she said. “It doesn’t require any and that would be challenged most likely, legally challenged.”

Some counties could interpret Amendment 4 differently from others, which could trigger lawsuits, the Tampa Bay Times added.

And Monroe County Supervisor Joyce Griffin told the Tampa Bay Times that she worries that some felons may accidentally improperly register to vote, which is itself a felony. The registration form says: “I affirm that I am not a convicted felon, or if I am, my right to vote has been restored.” It does not mention probation and restitution, which Amendment 4 requires. Griffin says she worries some felons might check the box mistakenly. “We’re setting people up. I’m frightful for those people,” she told the paper.

Liza McClenaghan, Florida state chair of voter advocacy group Common Cause, said the state is throwing up new roadblocks by insisting the legislature take a stand. “Why did we have a constitutional amendment in the first place?” she asked. “Because the Legislature wouldn’t deal with the issue. The people took care of that by creating a self-implementing amendment. It’s a curious situation.”

Assuming that the initiative does take effect immediately on Jan. 8, one former elections official is urging felons not to wait to register. Jerry Holland, former Duval County supervisor of elections, told Action News Jacksonville that “with 1.7 million potential voters, and how many we don’t know will actually go and register,” the time for the state to verify the felon’s eligibility might take some time. “The worst is to wait 29 days prior to the election and do it on the final day,” he said.

 

Philadelphia Gave Away Nearly $100M in School Revenue through Tax Breaks

A mural surrounds the now-closed Fairhill Elementary School. (Credit: Penn State via Flickr)

Property tax abatements in Philadelphia have diverted $62 million from school budgets, a new report says. Authored by progressive think tank Good Jobs First, “The New Math on School Finance” found that the city gives away more school tax revenue than any city of its size where data is known.

PlanPhilly reports that only one other school district gave away more money, but it is in suburban Oregon and hosts “several major tech campuses.”

Most public schools are entirely dependent on property taxes, and in Pennsylvania, more than half of school funding comes from local governments, rather than state or federal money.

Nationwide, schools in 28 states gave up $1.8 billion over the last year, the report said, with $1.6 billion of that coming from ten states. That’s enough to hire 27,798 more teachers in those ten states, which are South Carolina, New York, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas and Georgia.

The report likely underestimates the amount of money given away. It uses a new rule implemented in 2015 that requires governmental bodies to report “passively” lost revenue—such as tax abatements. Many states and school districts simply did not report the data, which is why Good Jobs First only has data in 28 states—and incomplete data in most of those states. New York City, for example, gives away the most dollars to tax abatements, but because of the way the school system is structured, the losses to schools specifically can’t be broken out.

Paul Levy, head of the Center City District in Philadelphia, defended the tax abatements to PlanPhilly. “The report that was just published focuses on the revenue that has ‘been given away’ by the city without asking the basic question: Would all of the development have happened without the abatement?”

Good Jobs counters that this argument is shortsighted. Corporate leaders, they say, value a well-trained workforce—“almost always far more … than the availability of economic development subsidies.” (Economic subsidies actually fall pretty low on the totem pole compared to location and other considerations…See also Amazon HQ2 choosing New York’s $1.5 billion incentive package over New Jersey’s $7 billion.) Cutting school budgets means elected officials are “shortsightedly undermining the very economic development that taxpayers want to support.”

 

Philadelphia Gave Away Nearly $100M in School Revenue through Tax Breaks

A mural surrounds the now-closed Fairhill Elementary School. (Credit: Penn State via Flickr)

Property tax abatements in Philadelphia have diverted $62 million from school budgets, a new report says. Authored by progressive think tank Good Jobs First, “The New Math on School Finance” found that the city gives away more school tax revenue than any city of its size where data is known.

PlanPhilly reports that only one other school district gave away more money, but it is in suburban Oregon and hosts “several major tech campuses.”

Most public schools are entirely dependent on property taxes, and in Pennsylvania, more than half of school funding comes from local governments, rather than state or federal money.

Nationwide, schools in 28 states gave up $1.8 billion over the last year, the report said, with $1.6 billion of that coming from ten states. That’s enough to hire 27,798 more teachers in those ten states, which are South Carolina, New York, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas and Georgia.

The report likely underestimates the amount of money given away. It uses a new rule implemented in 2015 that requires governmental bodies to report “passively” lost revenue—such as tax abatements. Many states and school districts simply did not report the data, which is why Good Jobs First only has data in 28 states—and incomplete data in most of those states. New York City, for example, gives away the most dollars to tax abatements, but because of the way the school system is structured, the losses to schools specifically can’t be broken out.

Paul Levy, head of the Center City District in Philadelphia, defended the tax abatements to PlanPhilly. “The report that was just published focuses on the revenue that has ‘been given away’ by the city without asking the basic question: Would all of the development have happened without the abatement?”

Good Jobs counters that this argument is shortsighted. Corporate leaders, they say, value a well-trained workforce—“almost always far more … than the availability of economic development subsidies.” (Economic subsidies actually fall pretty low on the totem pole compared to location and other considerations…See also Amazon HQ2 choosing New York’s $1.5 billion incentive package over New Jersey’s $7 billion.) Cutting school budgets means elected officials are “shortsightedly undermining the very economic development that taxpayers want to support.”

 

How L.A. Metro Might Pay For Its Ambitious “28 By ‘28” Plan

A railway tunnel under construction in Los Angeles, part of the Metro Expo Line extension project connecting Culver City and Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Olympics are coming to Los Angeles in a decade, and the L.A. Metro wants to be prepared. Mayor Eric Garcetti challenged Metro last year to a “28 by ‘28” initiative, trying to speed up 28 projects in time for the Olympics.

Metro is now considering a report that lays out how it could actually pay for these goals.

As Curbed LA reports, most of the 28 projects were and are already on track to be finished by 2028, but to accomplish the full plan, Metro needs to speed up eight projects.

The report’s authors found that fully completing “28 by ‘28” would cost an additional $26.2 billion. To address that funding gap, the report suggests new fees on Uber and Lyft trips or congestion pricing. The city could create a central-district boundary and charge vehicles that enter that boundary (similar to London’s congestion pricing scheme) or add congestion surcharges to a Vehicle Miles Traveled charge. The report’s authors also suggest a new type of congestion pricing called Corridor Pricing, “a new kind of congestion pricing that has not been implemented anywhere.” Corridor pricing would set fees on all roads with high traffic congestion but a “viable public transit alternative.” Anyone driving on those roads during peak times would pay a fee.

Congestion or VMT pricing could generate somewhere between $12 and $104 billion over the next ten years.

A complicating factor is that L.A. county voters passed Measure M in 2016, which provides some funding for each of the eight projects Metro is now aiming to expedite. Curbed LA reports that Measure M has a “strict funding schedule that can’t be altered without guarantees that other projects won’t be slowed down or lose out on funding as a result.” So Metro can’t simply prioritize the Measure M projects over others. Instead, it needs to raise more money to pay for the projects upfront.

Other options to raise money are raising transit fares (but even a 25 percent fare hike would only produce $757 million, a fraction of the money needed), taxing scooters and dockless bicycles, or selling the Metro-operated docked bike share system to the city. Metro bikeshare operates at a $8.75 million loss annually, the report said.

The report also suggested pursuing more public-private partnerships to build its projects.

The projects needing funding include building a rail line to LAX, extending the Purple Line subway to Westwood, bike infrastructure and greenways, and more.

 

More Lawmakers Looking Into Banning Cashless Restaurants

In this Tuesday, April 10, 2018, photo, employees prepare customers food at Peli Peli Kitchen in Houston. Owner Thomas Nguyen had a change of heart after transitioning one of his three Peli Peli South African fine dining restaurants and his Peli Peli Kitchen fast casual location to a no-cash policy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A New York City council member is proposing that the city outlaw businesses that don’t accept cash, the Associated Press reports.

Democratic City Councilman Ritchie Torres represents a part of the Bronx where one in four households have no bank account, the NY Daily News said. Citywide, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers lack a credit or debit card.

The law would force New York retailers to accept cash along with credit cards, or pay up to $500 per violation.

Many New York City businesses are already cashless or in the process of converting. It’s hard to get exact numbers on how many businesses are cashless, but Gothamist pulled together a short list: “Dos Toros, Dig Inn, Sweetgreen, Two Forks, Bluestone Lane coffee, many Danny Meyer establishments, the list goes on,” Claire Lampen wrote.

Other cities have also become alarmed at the practice of restaurants and retailers going cash-free. In Washington, D.C., Councilmember David Grosso introduced the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018, calling banning cash “a discriminatory practice that disproportionately affects” the 10 percent of D.C. residents who are unbanked and the additional 25 percent who are “underbanked.” In a press release announcing the legislation, Grosso also said that by banning cash, “businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome.” (Ironically, WMATA, the agency that runs Metrobus and Metrorail in the city, has been mulling expanding cashless buses while this debate has been ongoing, although the cashless bus question is shelved for now.)

Philadelphia lawmakers have also introduced a ban on cashless businesses, as have lawmakers in Chicago. Only Massachusetts currently bans cashless businesses, thanks to an “obscure” law dating from 1978, but the state retailers association says it’s not enforced.

New Jersey introduced legislation this summer that would have banned cashless establishments. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the state’s lower house, but the state Senate shelved the bill when Walmart and Amazon, which is testing cashier-less stores, expressed concerns. This week, with HQ2 effectively off the table, the Senate committee voted to advance the bill.

Businesses, on the other hand, say going cash-free is more efficient. One D.C. juice store owner said that going cashless came down to it being simply too difficult keeping track of all the cash at her six locations since her bank wasn’t always in a convenient place.

The lack of cash on hand makes a store a less tempting robbery target, too, businesses say. Still, nationwide, about a quarter of consumers still make all their purchases with cash, Vox reported. Some do so because they don’t have enough money to have a bank account, or can’t afford the risk of overdrafts. Some simply don’t trust banks or have identity theft or privacy concerns.

And what about the fact that cash is still legal tender? Slate reports that that doesn’t really apply here. Cash can be used to settle a debt, but until the restaurant has agreed to sell you a taco, you haven’t actually incurred a debt. Courts have sided with businesses that refuse certain types of cash on a reasonable basis such as when doing so increases efficiency, prevents incompatibility problems with the equipment employed to accept or count the money, or improves security.” That’s why it’s legal for stores to refuse large bills or for soda machines not to take pennies.

Going cashless could hurt the unbanked in more ways than by excluding them from certain stores, Slate says. Brenton Peck, a senior manager at the nonprofit Center for Financial Services Innovation, told the publication: “Encouraging more adoption of card products by pushing the cashless society could compromise people’s financial health. We’re forcing a segment of the population to act in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.” In other words, some people prefer (or would prefer if they had the choice) cash because they don’t have to worry about over-drafting their bank accounts.

In New York, Torres introduced the legislation Wednesday and it has been referred to committee.

 

Single-Stream Recycling (and China) Throwing Recycling Markets Into Chaos

In this Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, photo, bundled plastic goods, which were separated from paper and metal recyclable materials, are stacked and awaiting processing at EL Harvey & Sons, a waste and recycling company, in Westborough, Mass. Recycling programs across the United States are shutting down or scaling back because of a global market crisis blamed on contamination at the curbside bin. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Americans are so bad at recycling properly that China has banned the import of plastic waste and recycling companies domestically are shutting down.

A report from St. Louis Public Radio found that one processor in the St. Louis area has to throw away 25 percent of what it collects, and that its plant is down for at least an hour a day due to contamination issues.

The culprit, environmental advocates say, is single-stream recycling.

Single-stream recycling, meaning that paper, plastic, and metal are all thrown together in one bin instead of separated, began in the U.S. in the 1990s, STL Public Radio said. The theory, Jean Ponzi, green resources manager at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s EarthWays Center told the station, was that higher contamination rates from single-stream recycling would be offset by a higher level of participation. “But as more things got lumped in there and people, the markets and the industry got more careless, that’s when we really got into trouble.”

In St. Louis, well-meaning residents have tried to recycle rain-soaked newspapers, food waste, and a garden hose, to name a few. The worst, STL Public Radio says, are plastic bags, which gum up equipment.

China banned the import of plastic waste at the end of 2017, because the country is generating more of its own waste and because the imported plastic it was receiving was poor quality and less profitable, Smithsonian reported earlier this year. The ban could ultimately lead to more than 100 million tons of “displaced” plastic by 2030.

Many cities and states are reducing or eliminating curbside pickup or restricting what they will collect, WasteDive reported. Waste processors are assessing new fees to pick up certain items or waste with a certain percentage of contamination. In Kirkwood, Missouri, for example, before China stopped accepting plastics, the St. Louis suburb made money from its recycling program. Afterward, it had to pay hauler Resource Management $35 per ton. Resource Management announced in August that it would stop collecting single-stream recyclables, and Kirkwood switched to a different company — which charges the city $115 per ton, more than three times as much.

For the time being, many domestic recyclers are finding other export markets, like Indonesia and Vietnam, STL Public Radio reported. Elsewhere, nonprofits are just holding onto plastic in the hopes they’ll figure out something to do with it: Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful, which operates two volunteer-run recycling centers, has more than 7 tons of plastic stored at one center with no clue what to do with it.

“Our promise to the public as a nonprofit organization is to keep this out of the landfill,” Beverly Ashley Broyles, director of development and communication for Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful, told the Rockford Register Star. “We don’t want to break that promise. Because of the ban in China, there are a lot of recycling agencies that are having to resort to taking it to a landfill. We are trying to do everything we can for that never to happen.”

A local recycler in Illinois says that single-stream has led to “aspirational recycling,” when people throw all sorts of things in the bin assuming that it is recyclable.

“It is doing more harm than good,” Advanced Disposal communications director Mark Nighbor told the paper.

Meanwhile, New York City, which is estimated to produce more annual waste per capita and in total than any other city in the world, is planning to switch its recycling services to single-stream, set to take effect in 2020.

 



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