Stains in the Apple

By Derval Thomas

I have noticed that the number and size of stains on the sidewalks of New York City are increasing.  To be sure, I’m not referring to stains from the residuals of man’s best friend.  Rather, I’m referring to those seemingly coming from where mesh garbage bins are located and where plastics bags with garbage left overnight are placed.  The stains are bad enough, but what’s worse is seeing people hosing them down or throwing buckets of water in the hope of removing them.  New York City pays a lot of money to upstate watershed communities to limit economic development around watersheds to ensure the best drinking water in the country.  While that is good and has a strategic purpose to it, I wonder what those communities would say, seeing how some of the water is being used along NYC’s sidewalks.  Hmmm.  Probably something only someone from NYC would surely understand.

It seems our generation of excessive food wasters results in staining our sidewalks.  Time and again, there are leaking garbage bags on our sidewalks and people throwing unfinished beverages in mesh bins without garbage bags.  For that and other reasons, NYC Board of Health’s approval of Mayor Bloomberg proposal to limit the size of…….ahem.  Ahem.  Let’s face it, sidewalks without stains are more aesthetically pleasing and inviting to pedestrians, and no business owner reliant on foot traffic would oppose that.

We will always generate food waste ending up staining our sidewalks, so there should be a solution to this problem.  Perhaps there is an entrepreneurial chemist out there who can formulate a (green) chemical compound to erase the stains.  We all would be so pleased with this outcome.

Energy is used to produce food, so there is wasted energy associated with food waste.  Food waste stains our sidewalks.  Stained sidewalks result in water loss, not to mention aesthetics.  Altogether, this is evocative of those Direct TV commercials illustrating actions and consequences.  In the context of sustainability, consequences are consequential.

Hey New York, let’s take the stain out of the Apple.

About the author: Derval Thomas is an Environmental Engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He received bachelor and master degrees in chemical engineering from the City College of New York.  Derval has been with the EPA for over 25 years and has worked in many of EPA’s environmental programs and initiatives.

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