Environmental Focus on Kingston: Plastics by the Numbers

Starting Novemember 8th the sale of all water bottles under a gallon will have a 5¢ deposit added to them.  This is the result of being included in the state’s newly expanded Bigger Better Bottle Bill.  It marks the first change to the state’s bottle deposit law since it was created in 1982.

An estimated 3.2 billion water bottles are sold annually across the Empire State.  Including water bottles under the deposit law is expected to result in increased recycling and decreased litter, which sounds good for the environment.  There’s even some good news for the state; 80% of unclaimed deposits will now go to Albany in the form of much-needed revenue, which is projected to be as much as $115 million.

Despite my long love affair with drinking the icy cold, refreshing liquid, thankfully I’ve avoided developing a water bottle habit.  I can probably count the number of times I buy them annually on one hand.  And when I do it’s usually under extreme duress, like immediate threat of dehydration or imminent death.

While including water bottles under the deposit law is a great idea that is long overdue for the state and the environment, it really got me thinking about the many different types plastics there are and how to recycle them.

Plastic is one of the most widely used materials in the US.  It’s in everything from toys, clothes, food containers, to medical equipment and devices.  It makes up 11.7% of the nation’s waste stream and is among the least recycled items.

Plastics are made from fossil fuels and their manufacture can involve the emission of toxic substances into the atmosphere and water.  When they are incinerated, toxins such as lead and chlorine are released.  When put into landfills, they can take 100-400 years to decompose.

There are over a hundred kinds of plastics that have been created, but the most common containers fall into one of seven categories.  The Society of the Plastics Industry developed this numeric system to identify the type of plastic resins used in specific products.  This helps recycling centers to sort them so they can find life in new products.

Here’s the low down on each of the seven types of common plastics used today:


#1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)*: This is the most common type of plastic and is considered to be one of the least toxic.  However, most environmentalists agree that it is fit for single use only.  PET plastics are typical of soda, juice, water, and even cough syrup bottles.  (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#2 High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)*: Is considered one of the safer plastics, despite it being manufactured with chemicals such as hexane and benzene.  #2 plastics are most often used in shampoo and detergent bottles, milk jugs, cosmetic containers, toys and sturdy shopping bags.  (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Is considered a plastic to avoid and many environmentalists think it to be the most toxic, despite the plastic industry’s defense its safety.  Both its manufacture and disposal releases dioxin into the air and water.  It is used in shower curtains, meat & cheese wrappers, 3-ring binders, some bottles, plumbing pipes and many toys.  (NOT accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#4 Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)*: This type of plastic is used for shopping bags, six-pack rings, CD and DVD cases and some bottles.  (Acccepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#5 Polypropylene (PP)*: #5 is generally regarded as a relatively benign plastic.  It is used in prescription bottles, yogurt, food storage containers, diapers, candy containers and lab equipment.  (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#6 Polystyrene (PS): This plastic has undergone some chemical changes since it was phased out of McDonald’s sandwich wrappers some 20 years ago.  Ozone depleting CFC’s are no longer used in its manufacture, but environmentalists still dislike it because of the presence of toxic styrene and it is known to pollute nearby air & water.  #6 plastics are found in disposable cups, take-out food containers and packing peanuts.  (NOT accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

#7 Other: These types of plastics are “wild cards.”   They do not fall within the guidelines for the other common categories.  They include toothbrushes, protective head-gear, reusable water bottles, sunglasses and cell phones. (Accepted for recycling at UCRRA)

Remember when recycling plastic containers to remove and discard all caps and be sure to rinse all containers.  Lids are generally accepted.

*A quick word on bisphenol A (BPA), which has been a frequent media topic lately.  Scientists are studying the link between heating a plastic container lined with BPA and the potential leaching of the chemical into foods and beverages.  Some believe that BPA leaching causes neural and behavioral issues, particularly in young children.  The current expert thinking is that #1, 2, 4 & 5 plastics do not use BPA in the manufacturing of their related plastic products.

Finally, if that isn’t enough to help you understand plastics, the importances of choosing the right kinds as consumers and why/how to recycle them – then check out this article from How Stuff Works.

(Courtesy of: Silverman, Jacob.  “Why is the world’s biggest landfill in the Pacific Ocean?.”  19 September 2007. HowStuffWorks.com,  29 October 2009.)

– Wilbur Girl

Environmental Focus on Kingston: Why Pay As You Throw?

The City of Kingston has a mounting waste management problem.  Forced reductions in budgets and workforce due to economic shortcomings will only put a temporary bandage on a hemorrhaging situation.

The reason is simple; weekly, unenforced curbside collection and hauling our garbage more than 250 miles away to the Seneca Meadows Landfill, is extremely expensive and is getting more so with each passing year.

In 2008 the city paid tipping fees of $71/ton to UCRRA, who ultimately hauls the waste upstate.  The national average is $42.08/ton.

It’s time to fundamentally rethink the ways we manage our waste disposal methods.  Public opposition is understandable and expected.  After all, as my mother explained to me without batting an eyelash, traditional weekly collection of garbage is number one on the list of Kingston’s Ten Commandments. And she was serious.

I didn’t say it would be a popular idea among citizens, but here’s why it should be:

1. Pay As You Throw (PAYT) encourages equity among users by charging fees based on the amount of waste a household actually disposes of.  It treats garbage disposal more like a utility such as your electric, water or phone bill.  Rather than charging everyone the same embedded fee in annual taxes, it allows the customer to have control over what they pay by controlling what they throw out.  It provides a direct link to consumer behavior and the cost generated by it.

2. Research shows that users of PAYT programs will alter their waste disposal habits in a number of positive ways in an effort to produce less waste and therefore pay less for disposal costs.  In terms of buying habits, consumers will be more likely to buy frequently used items in bulk in an effort to reduce packaging wastes.  Recycling habits improve, and items once carelessly tossed can be viewed as having a valuable reuse.  PAYT also motivates users to compost yard waste and kitchen scraps as another proven method of keeping excess waste from their personal waste stream.

This has a positive environmental impact given that the average person generates 4.4 pounds of garbage a day.

This approach to waste disposal is not new.  Over the past decade it has really taken off and gained popularity among municipalities across the nation.  In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated there were over 7,000 communities across the country that employ a PAYT system.  This included 42% of communities in NYS.  These programs report an overall waste disposal average decrease of 14-27% and an increase in recycling rates typically between 32-59%.

Here in Kingston the topic was first introduced in 2003, when city resident Emilie Hauser worked with several aldermen to propose studying the potential benefits it could have on our tax dollars and environment.  It was brought up again in early March 2008 by city environmental educator Steve Noble.  The most recent discussion on it came from the mayor’s office just last month.  We think now is the time for the Common Council to roll up their sleeves and take a serious look at the merits of PAYT.  If after doing their homework on the issue they determine it not to right for Kingston, then we expect them to put forth another viable solution.

All PAYT systems are not created equal.  Communities tend to create hybrid programs that meet and address their specific needs.  Typically users purchase disposal bags, tags or vouchers directly from the municipality.  Another possibility is the mandated purchase and use of specifically sized collection containers.  Payment options can include a direct sale purchase, use of a voucher system, monthly, quarterly or budget billing.  Some communities make allowances for seniors on fixed incomes and families that fall below certain income levels by offering subsidies, incentives or rebates to help control costs.

The constant in all successful applications of this method of waste management is that education and public involvement are critical to rendering it successful.  The EPA suggests that well implemented plans are phased in over an 18 month period.  During that time the ultimate goals desired from such a program are developed as well as a timeline for implementation.  Studies and data collection of volume and type of waste the community produces are conducted, joint citizen/official panel task forces are formed, and educational outreach programs begin.  During this time decisions on container options, rates structured plans, pilot programs, changes in city ordinances, and plans for effective enforcement need to be meted out.   Even beyond final implementation, educational outreach programs and enforcement need to continue.

Whether or not you love or hate the concept of Pay As You Throw, given our current economic development and path, you may not have a say on the ultimate decision.  Dragging our feet on an issue that is well researched, studied, documented and used by thousands of communities is doing us more harm than good.  The time is perfect for interested citizens to do their own research and to step forward to motivate our elected officials on moving one way or another on this important topic.

Maintaining status quo is no longer an acceptable approach.

Did You Know: The EPA has volumes of information on the subject and is a great place to get your feet wet!  You can start educating yourself by clicking here.

Don’t leave until you take our survey!  We want to know where you stand on this!

– Wilbur Girl

November General Elections: Amendment Proposals Citizen’s Need To Know

In the November general election, there are two proposals on the ballot that most citizens and public officials know little about. Taken from the League of Women Voters 2009 Voter’s Guide, here is what we know will be helpful this election cycle (special thanks to all who helped us in our search, particularly District 6 Legislator Jeanette Provenzano).

– Rebecca Martin

What will be on the ballot on Election Day, November 3rd, 2009?

Voters in New York State will elect local officials (e.g. your mayor, town supervisor, town council members, etc.). You will also be voting on two statewide ballot proposals, and may be voting on local ballot proposals.


This Voter’s Guide will help you to evaluate the two ballot proposals that will be on the November 2009 ballot. Both are amendments to the New York State Constitution. Read about the amendments and decide whether you wish to vote for or against each one. Look carefully for them on the ballot; sometimes they are easy to miss.


FORM OF SUBMISSION (how the proposal will be presented to you on the ballot):

Amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution, in relation to the use of certain forest preserve lands by National Grid to construct a 46 kV power line along State Route 56 in St. Lawrence County. The proposed amendment would authorize the Legislature to convey up to six acres of forest preserve land along State Route 56 in St. Lawrence County to National Grid for construction of a power line. In exchange, National Grid would convey to the State at least 10 acres of forest land in St. Lawrence County, to be incorporated into the forest preserve. The land to be conveyed by National Grid to the State must be at least equal in value to the land conveyed to National Grid by the State. Should the amendment be approved?

What will this amendment do if approved by the voters?

The “Forever Wild” clause of the NYS Constitution prohibits any development in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, including the building of power lines, unless the constitution is specifically amended to allow it. A constitutional amendment requires passage by two separately elected state Legislatures and then approval by the voters. This amendment has been passed unanimously by the Legislatures that took office in 2007 and 2009, and is now being presented to the voters on the November, 2009 ballot.

This amendment will make constitutional an action that has, in fact, already taken place. The NYS Power Authority, with the involvement and agreement of the interested environmental and municipal groups, approved the building of a back-up power line through forest preserve land to protect the health and safety of the residents of the village of Tupper Lake. The line was built and activated in May of 2009.

What is the background on this proposal?

Before this new power line was built, the village of Tupper Lake had frequent power outages caused by damage to its single electrical supply line, principally from falling tree limbs in forested land along its route. There was no back-up line in the event of power failure, and during the winter alternative shelter had to be provided to village residents. This was considered an urgent situation that could not wait for the completion of the constitutional amendment process for relief, since it affected the health and safety of the villagers. The most environmentally friendly route for the new line traverses about two miles of Adirondack Forest Preserve land, affecting a small number of physical acres. While the new line couldhave been detoured to avoid forest preserve land, the detour would have involved a six mile cut through old-growth undeveloped forest and wetlands, endangering the habitat of wildlife. The chosen route along an existing road through previously cleared preserve land was judged to be more ecologically friendly.

National Grid, the builder of the line, will compensate for the loss of existing preserve land by conveying new forest preserve land to the State. This new land must be of equal or greater value than the land that was lost. Environmental and civic organizations are supportive of this remedy to what was a serious and persistent public health and safety issue. Since the amendment is specific to this situation, it does not give broader constitutional permission to other such solutions; each would require another constitutional amendment.

The League of Women Voters could not identify any organizations or opinions in opposition to this amendment.


FORM OF SUBMISSION (how the proposal will be presented to you on the ballot):

Amendment to article 3 of the Constitution, in relation to authorizing the Legislature to allow prisoners to voluntarily perform work for nonprofit organizations. The proposed amendment would authorize the Legislature to pass legislation to permit inmates in state and local correctional facilities to perform work for nonprofit organizations. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

What will this amendment do if approved by the voters?

The NYS Constitution currently prohibits labor performed by prisoners in state or local correctional facilities to be “be farmed out, contracted, given or sold to any person, firm, association or corporation”, except the state or any political division of the state and its public institutions. This means that prisoners cannot perform work, even voluntarily, for nonprofit organizations, such as churches, charities, social service agencies or educational institutions. If passed by the voters, this amendment will remove this constitutional impediment, and will authorize the Legislature to allow these inmates to voluntarily perform work for nonprofit organizations.

What is the background on this proposal?

The sponsors for the legislation proposing this constitutional amendment argue that prohibiting prisoners from voluntarily performing work for nonprofit organizations denies these often under-funded organizations access to a willing labor force for tasks such as grounds-keeping. They say that many localities have requested that the prohibition be removed. They also say that allowing inmate work crews to provide labor to these organizations will help fill the gaps in funding them, and will give the inmates a sense of “giving back” to the community.

The sponsors also make the point that passing this amendment would only give the Legislature authority to pass a law allowing inmates to do such work. This “enacting legislation” could include restrictions, in the interest of public safety, on which inmates would be eligible to perform this work. Two separately elected Legislatures passed this constitutional amendment with near unanimous votes in favor.

The League of Women Voters could not identify any organizations or opinions in opposition to this amendment.

What do I need to be aware of for this election?

Some local polling places will be piloting the new optical scanning equipment; the lever machines will no longer be in use at those polling places. You can consult the State Board of Elections web site for information on which polling places are involved in the pilot and how the process will work. The League’s Voter’s Guide Part I, cited above, also has good information about the new machines and voting process. As in prior elections, each polling place will have a Ballot Marking Device (BMD) for use by voters who are disabled and cannot use a lever machine, or by voters who want to vote on the BMD.

You should also be aware of what to do if you registered and your name is not on the rolls when you go to your polling place. The League’s Voter’s Guide Part I explains what to do in that situation; you should ask the poll worker for advice, and you either will be directed to a different polling place or assisted in voting by affidavit ballot. You should also plan to bring identification – a driver’s license, valid photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement, government check or some other government documentation that shows your name and address – especially if you are voting for the first time.

Locomotive Blare

Kingston’s role as a major hub of commerce during the 19th century was built upon canals, steamships and railroads. Although the steamships and canal boats are now long gone, freight trains continue to play an important part of the movement of goods and raw materials from one place to another.

According to the Association of American Railroads, freight train transportation is a $54 billion industry that employs over 186,000 people in the U.S. Coal remains one of the most common material shipped, which is followed by “miscellaneous goods and materials” such as timber (and lumber), food, consumer products and chemicals. The average length of a haul in the U.S. is 922 miles and the average number of cars of a freight train is 69. Compared to air, truck and sea shipping, trains are also the most cost effective mode of moving goods and raw materials.

So, it’s clear that freight train transportation is big business, and an important one. But it does come at a cost. Aside from the pollution generated by electric and diesel engines, trains also produce a significant amount of noise pollution in the form of whistles warning of its approach, which is mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration. In Kingston, residents who live near the six, street-level rail crossings (located on Cemetery Road, Foxhall, Flatbush, Gage Street, Tenbroeck and Smith Avenue) know well the sound of train horns.

On a recent, early morning, I was woken by the blare of a train horn at 2 a.m. It sounded as if the train was coming down my block on Brewster Street. My neighbor Joe Benkert, who has lived on the street since the early 1970s, said the horns sound louder when the wind blows our way, and seems to be louder on cool, clear fall nights. I can’t imagine how folks who live in Ward 7, where most of the crossings are located, fare on such nights.

Complaints from residents over train horn noise tend to ebb and flow from year to year, and most recently — in 2006 — common council majority leader Bill Reynolds (Democrat, Ward 7) formally asked the council to buy special “wayside horns” for each crossing, which would reduce the much louder train horns. Reynolds was supported by area residents who were upset over the seemingly constant blare of the horns. At the time, the cost was estimated at $360,000 to cover each of the six crossings. Reynolds sent a letter to the council detailing the benefits, which center on reducing train horn use while not forfeiting safety. The council kicked the idea around for some time, and the effort was delayed after it was revealed that an engineering study needed to explore the installation was simply too costly.

Interestingly, there have been mixed results from large-scale studies regarding the effectiveness of wayside horns — that is, until 2007. Prior studies tended to examine just one or two aspects of wayside horns, such as from a traffic perspective or from the train engineer’s point of view. But in 2007 the North Carolina Department of Transportation commissioned Joseph E. Hummer, Ph.D., P.E., and Principal Investigator Mohammad Reza Jafari of the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University to conduct a comprehensive study on wayside horns. The study is now considered a landmark document and is used by other municipalities when considering train noise reduction.

In the report, the authors acknowledge that horn noise is problematic for many communities and that one “potential solution for reducing horn noise is a wayside horn,” which is sounded in place of the locomotive horn when a train approaches “and is positioned to direct the sound precisely down the intersecting roadways rather than along the track. A wayside horn can therefore operate at a lower sound level than a locomotive horn and produce less area sound exposure.”

Dr. Hummer and Reza Jafari concluded that “the wayside horn offers significant sound relief to residents and others in the area around a crossing.” In addition, the team said that “the wayside horn has led to slight, if any, shifts in driver behavior and opinion. Finally, the study team concluded that the wayside horn appears to be reliable and acceptable to train engineers.” As a result, the North Carolina DOT continues to install wayside horns in impacted communities.

Here in Kingston, 40 to 50 freight trains from CSX Corp. continue to roll through the city each day, and the train horns can be heard for miles. At a distance, the sound is romantic, but up close it is clearly an annoyance. Reynolds said recently that the “wayside horns fell by the wayside” and that he could not get the support needed for the project. Given current economic conditions in the city, elected officials said it is unlikely that this issue will be revisited any time soon.

Still, if it remains a concern, residents can lobby elected officials and explore funding options for installing “wayside horns.”

— Arthur Z.

All Hands On Deck: Neighborhood Clean-Up At Forsyth Park

This is just the kind of thing we love to relay to our Kingston Citizens.

Earlier in the year, several of the Ward 1 residents organized a clean-up of the Forsyth Playground to help make a beautiful space more so for our children and families.

This fall, there is another group from Ward 1 organizing a clean-up – and this time, it’s the entire Forsyth Park.

On Saturday, October 17th from 9am – Noontime (rain date the following day, Sunday, October 18th at the same time) they will meet, stating: “Forsyth Park is one of Kingston’s best attractions. With the current budget woes of Kingston, now more than ever we all need to do our part to keep our neighborhood park clean”.

Thanks to Andi and Butch for making the effort. If anyone would like more information, they can contact Andi at: 917/975-3039 or Butch at 845/594-3811.

Busy Bees In A BEAHIVE: Coworking Space Coming To Kingston

I received this from Jason Stern, President and Publisher of Luminary Publishing/Chronogram. Very exciting stuff. Please take their survey – and help them to make this a successful project.


We’re setting up a coworking space in Kingston. What’s that, you say? Coworking is a growing trend in work collaboration.

Inspired by this worldwide movement, BEAHIVE (www.beahivebeacon.com ) is a new kind of shared workspace for independent professionals. At the most fundamental level, we provide a shared, creative work environment for solopreneurs, the creative class, microbusinesses and consultants.

We also plan programs and events to inspire, educate and bond members and the community: personal and professional development workshops, seminars, social and cultural events.

Perhaps more importantly, we’re kicking around ideas to collaborate on projects to help in creating a lively, living, local community.

The original location opened in May right in the heart of Beacon’s Main Street in an artisan-renovated 1907 Bell Telephone building. Now BEAHIVE is partnering with Chronogram (Luminary Publishing) to populate another hive in Kingston.

We’re hoping we can help inject some energy into Kingston by corralling talented folks out of their homes and into one place to create a buzzing community space. We should be open on Wall St. in November.

We’re looking for coworkers to join us.

Please share your thoughts with us as we prepare to roll this thing out by taking our survey. Link below. It should take no more than 5 minutes.


Cheers, Scott Tillitt / Antidote Collective/BEAHIVE
Jason Stern / Chronogram/Luminary Publishing

yogi & writer [ scott@beahivebeacon.com / 917.449.6356 ]

collaborative community workspace / join the hive. engage.
sign up for BEAHIVE Bzzz: http://eepurl.com/caxT
[ www.beahivebeacon.com / www.twitter.com/BEAHIVE ]

socially conscious communications / apply liberally.
[ www.antidotecollective.org ]

– — – t h i n k / f e e l – — –
…an idea or product that deserves the label ‘creative’ arises from the synergy of many sources and not only from the mind of a single person.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihaly)

“Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston!” Program Launched

It’s no secret that the federal “Leave It On The Lawn” program has done great things in many municipalities nationwide. It has arrived here at home with the support of the City of Kingston in collaboration with the Kingston Land Trust’s garden committee to “help Kingston help itself”  by asking Kingston citizens to consider managing their landscape waste this fall.   The first scheduled leaf  pick-up is October 15th which is only ten days from now.   Come on Kingston Citizens!  Click on the links below to help to get you started. Don’t believe this initiative can save you big bucks in tax dollars and make a major difference in the (and your) environment? Read on….

– Rebecca Martin and Wilbur Girl of KingstonCitizens.org’s  blogspot

Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston!

The City of Kingston with the support of the garden committee through the Kingston Land Trust asks the citizens of Kingston to re-think bagging their leaves this season.

During the year, at least 20 percent of the solid waste generated by Kingstonians comes from grass clippings, tree leaves and other landscape wastes. Bagging these materials or placing them into the curbside collection system wastes an important natural amendment leading to poor soil quality and costs the people of Kingston more in increased taxes and service fees by the use of additional trucks, labor and fuel.

Approximately half of landscape waste is composed of tree leaves.  The “Leave It On The Lawn, Kingston!” Leaf Management Plan is an environmentally sound program designed to significantly reduce the volume of leaves saving citizens tax dollars while improving their soil quality, naturally.

Options for Managing and Using Leaves
Leaves are truly a valuable natural resource. They contain 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil and air during the season. Therefore, leaves should be managed and used rather than bagged and placed at curbside for collection.

Here’s what you can do to make some simple and important changes:

Mulching by Mowing  (click on this link to learn detailed how to’s)
Leaf mowing is the most efficient way to manage your leaves and takes 1/4 of the time than traditional raking and bagging. For larger lawns, though not entirely necessary, this can be more effective when a mulching mower is used. To get started:

1.    Mow over your dry leaves in the same manner you would if you were mowing the grass.  If you have a great deal of leaves and a small parcel, rake the leaves out evenly before mowing.
2.    Repeat if necessary.
3.    Leave your shredded leaves on the lawn for a chemical-free fertilizer that will give beautiful results.
4.    You can also rake and transport your shredded leaves to your gardens, shrubs, trees or composter.

Composting Landscape Waste (click on this link to learn detailed how to’s)
Kingston’s urban environment allows for many different methods of composting.  There are a variety of composter styles and sizes to choose from, or, simply make your own.

1.    TO COMPOST YOUR LEAVES: take the shredded leaves alone or with other yard waste materials and place in a wire bin or any type of composter of your choosing.  Remember  that the smaller the pieces, the faster they will break down into reusable organic matter.  For a quicker result, turn your materials with a pitch fork or similar tool occasionally.  In time, underneath your compost pile, you will have rich, dark soil for all of your gardening needs.
2.    TO COMPOST SHREDDED LEAVES WITH KITCHEN WASTE:  in an appropriate bin, add equal parts brown and green materials.  “Brown” materials include leaves, straw, non-glossy paper, wood, bark chips, paper napkins and coffee grounds. “Green” materials include fruit and vegetable peelings, rinds, and eggshells.
3.     NEVER add any animal products, oils or hazardous materials.  Turn the pile occasionally to aerate it and make sure it’s moist but not soggy.  The decomposition process can take anywhere from three months to a year.

By composting you’ll have RICH soil for FREE!  It will save time, money and our city’s precious resources.

Get started today and lend a hand to help Kingston help itself!