York/ San Juan/Port-au-Prince - July 1 - An international coalition of environmental
groups announced today that they would make every effort to block the export of
New York City trash to the Caribbean, a proposal suggested by Sanitation Commissioner
John Doherty last week. The New York Times quoted Mr. Doherty as saying "could
we find an island and do something?"
Timothy Logan, Solid Waste Coordinator for New York City's Environmental Justice
Alliance said "Environmental Justice activists throughout NYC will stand
firmly with our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean to oppose environmentally
inequitable and unsustainable practices. We continue to pressure our own elected
officials to embrace waste prevention, composting and recycling as the answer
to reducing the impacts of our waste".
Organizations around the United States and the Caribbean began mobilizing against
the project as soon as the announcement was made.
"The countries of the Caribbean will not take kindly to garbage imperialism
from the Big Apple," said Aldrin Calixte with COHPEDA in Haiti. COHPEDA waged
a successful decade-long campaign to demand the removal of Philadelphia's incinerator
ash dumped on a Haitian beach in the late 1980s. Ironically, that infamous ash
is finally being returned to Pennsylvania this week after 15 years, at the same
time that NYC announces its regressive idea to dump its trash on Caribbean Islands.
According to Calixte, "We must join forces against this plan to prevent the
giants of this planet who continue to undermine the environmental space of others."
"In the case of Puerto Rico the proposal is another insult to an open
injury," said Juan Rosario, coordinator of the Alliance for the Sustainable
Management of our Residues in Puerto Rico. "During the last sixty years USA
government have bombed Vieques, destroying a beautiful municipal island and harming
its citizens; have use our people as guinea pigs testing agent orange, malathion,
thalidomide; have made experiment with gamma rays in our pristine rainforest and
conducted a sterilization campaign on our sisters without their consent, among
many abominable things. Now, showing that human stupidity and greed has no limits
they are proposing to send us their garbage. We will not tolerate it, we won't
become the dumpsite of NYC and will do anything it takes to stop it."
The groups, including the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, GAIA, BAN, and
EarthRights International in the U.S. and Alliance for the Sustainable Management
of our Residues, and COHPEDA in the Caribbean, said they would resort to blocking
shipments with civil disobedience if necessary.
"Sending waste abroad will come back to haunt anyone who tries it,"
said Kenny Bruno, Campaigns Coordinator for EarthRights International.
"Hearing the idea to export waste at the same time that New York is actually
cutting its recycling program is like going back in time," said GAIA campaigner
Monica Wilson. GAIA is an international coalition with members in 55 countries
working to promote responsible and just waste management systems. "In the
1980's other U.S. municipalities considered this option but rejected it as short-sighed
and unjust. Instead they adopted serious waste reduction and recycling programs
and are now diverting the majority of their municipal discards back into the useful
economy. When is New York going to join the 21st Century and embrace real solutions?"
"Is the memory of New York so short that they don't recall the Islip Garbage
Barge that in 1987 plied the waters of the Caribbean and Eastern seaboard for
months looking for a community willing to be dumped on?" said Jim Puckett
of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a global watchdog network that works to halt
international dumping of wastes. "At that time Greenpeace placed a large
banner on the barge which stated: 'Next Time, Try Recycling.' Apparently New York
remains deaf to this clear and compelling message."
Photo of the famous 1987 Islip Barge, also known as the "NYC Garbage Barge"
from Greenpeace (1-202-462-1177) Photos of Philadelphia's waste dumped in Haiti
available from Greenpeace and from COHPEDA (contact information above.)