Local Organizations Aim to Combat Trash Crisis
By Loulou Chryssides
It’s no secret that our city has been facing a growing trash crisis.
In June, the decision was made to reduce the budget of the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) by an astounding 60 percent, nearly $106 million. These cuts included garbage collections from sidewalk bins on weekdays. Combine this reduction in funds with millions home from work and school along with outdoor dining, and many sidewalks have become a public trash can for some.
Fortunately, many Astorians care about the state of their neighborhood and within the last year, a number of local organizations have formed to educate others about sustainability and reducing the problem of garbage and litter.
One such organization is run by Astoria resident and New York native, Nicole Grossberg. In 2019, Grossberg founded the Zero Waste NYC Workshop, a monthly educational workshop series in partnership with Sanitation Foundation, the official non-profit of the DSNY.
“At our workshops, we talk about activism, community involvement, lifestyle changes, and all different topics around zero waste. Essentially, zero waste is lowering your impact on the planet, not producing excessive amounts of waste and cutting down on single-use items,” shared Grossberg.
In addition to Zero Waste, Grossberg also works with the start-up, DeliverZero, which partners with restaurants to deliver food in reusable containers. DeliverZero is currently looking to work with restaurants in Astoria to alleviate the problem created from takeout containers, which account for approximately one billion items stored in the city’s landfills.
Volunteers have also played a huge role in the fight against the current crisis. Proud Astorian was established in June 2020 by Kate Peterson, who was inspired to share images of Astoria that made Peterson proud to be a part of the community.
“Toward the end of June, I got tired of seeing social media posts with pictures of overflowing garbage and litter around Astoria. It felt like everyone wanted to complain and point fingers instead of working to find a solution. I decided to try to tackle something specific like the street cans on 30th Avenue,” said Peterson.
Since then, Proud Astorian has gathered 100 volunteers, with designated weekly pick-ups and a partnership with the Astoria Park Alliance. Additionally, Peterson has met with members of the City Council, DSNY, and the city Parks Department while connecting with businesses that have donated essential supplies.
Similarly, in August 2020, resident Sarah Abd Alfatah created the Astoria Blue Community. This organization gathers volunteers to help collect trash from sidewalks and streets on weekday evenings as well as weekends.
“Sidewalk cleaning has been stopped. People working from home and outdoor dining have also increased litter. There’s so much stress on the businesses as well. It’s time for us to take responsibility not to trash our streets,” said Abd Alfatah.
What else can Astorians do? Kate Peterson recommends reporting such instances to 311 with photographic proof. Peterson also advises business owners to place visible trash cans outside of their establishments to reduce the litter problem.
“[Elected officials] need to come up with a long-term plan of how we are going to manage waste in our city. There is no indication our lives will look significantly different in the coming year from this new normal we are now experiencing. Instead of responding reactively to issues only when they become dire, we need to think proactively,” Peterson stated.
An example of this, according to Peterson, is funding for organizations such as the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, where workers can be hired for pay to assist in efforts.
If you are interested in contacting the above organizations, be sure to follow them on Instagram: @zerowastenycworkshop and @proudastorian. Additionally, the Astoria Blue Community can be contacted via email at [email protected]