Long Story Short: News cycles and recycling
Buffalo in the news
One of our favorite things at LSS is to note when Buffalo makes national news—good or bad. Lately it’s been more of the former than the latter, but one recent national news item from the sports world was not very flattering. The Athletic surveyed thirty-two Pro Bowl players with a variety of questions, one being “What is the worst NFL city to travel to?” Buffalo was the runaway “winner,” with ten players citing it. No other city had more than four votes. “No charm,” was the way one player put it.
This may be more of a commentary on our uniquely situated stadium than on the city itself. On game day, most visiting teams make the twenty-minute drive from the airport to the Hyatt Regency downtown. Then they make the thirty-five-minute commute to Orchard Park along a bland stretch of highway to the stadium. There they are greeted by the very enthusiastic Bills fanbase, who jeer and offer middle-finger salutes. The more important a player is, the more contempt rains down upon him (and Pro Bowl players are the best of the best). Visiting teams are not here to sightsee. They come to work, and it’s not a particularly welcoming labor environment. So let’s call this a win.
Not-so-hot time in the city
NBC news cites Buffalo as one of the cities scientists expect to be most habitable when global warming fully kicks in. The story includes profiles of several people who have come from warm climates to Buffalo to escape increasing weather disasters. "I remember feeling all that anxiety about the weather,” says one woman who relocated here from Florida, “One thing about living in Buffalo, I don’t have that same anxiety in the back of my mind."
“Access to bodies of fresh lake water, distance from the coast, elevation from sea level, and colder weather that will become a little more temperate,” are the selling points for people looking for a safer climate. The article goes on to describe the misfortunes people in other regions are in for, making our fair city sound like paradise.
Music to our ears
Buffalo’s own Griselda, a hip-hop crew from Buffalo’s East Side, appeared on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, performing their latest single, Dr Birds. They represented Buffalo in more ways than one way, dressed as they were in down parkas, jackets, and knit caps, as if they were performing outdoors on one of our few (this year) wintery days. They wear similar attire on the video for this song.
It’s old school rap, full of gangsta bravado, degradation of women, and what Jeff Miers of the Buffalo News calls a “street-level view of drug-related violence.” Miers goes on to say about the Tonight Show performance, “It was raw, it was in-your-face, and it was frankly awesome, as affirming for a Buffalonian as the recent Bills prime-time TV flex.” I have a lot of respect for Miers, who is the last vestige of the newspaper’s once-notable staff of arts writers. But to be honest, I can only understand about one third of “Dr Birds’” lyrics on either the live or recorded version. The portion I can hear is not to my liking, and this old white guy does have hip-hop favorites, so it’s not the musical genre I dislike. But hey, they are putting Buffalo front and center on the national scene, so fine with me.
And Keys too
The immensely talented, Grammy winning singer/songwriter (who also courageously chooses to eschew makeup), Alicia Keys, threw some love our way last week. In a video interview for genius.com, she comments on various new music videos, including the one by Griselda mentioned above. “Buffalo produces some product,” she notes. “It’s crazy; you don’t expect it but there’s like enough people that come from Buffalo.” Then she says something about things going “round and round and round forever” that might or might not relate to Buffalo, or just to Griselda, or maybe to something else entirely. But we were cited in a positive light, so fine with me.
It’s been quite a few years since Buffalo introduced green totes for recycling. Recently, you may have heard rumors that the recycled materials placed in those totes end up in landfills anyway. In 2018, the New York Times reported that that is what happens to about twenty-five percent of all recyclables. Some people claim they’ve seen local sanitation workers dumping recyclables in with the regular trash. You may have also heard that recycling has become unprofitable for cities, since China stopped accepting recycled materials from the US, due to the high rate of contamination.
Not in Buffalo
“The city’s current contractor for recyclables collection and processing, Modern Recycling, has relied primarily on markets in the US,” says Susan Attridge, Director of Refuse and Recycling in Buffalo, “so they are in better shape.” No matter where these materials go today, the cost is higher than ever to turn recyclables into commodities. “But,” Attridge emphatically asserts, “our recyclables are not going into the landfill.” Buffalo’s current contract with Modern Recycling ends in December 2021. Until then, the City of Buffalo is still making money on recycled materials, despite the added cost of contending with contamination.
Some cities, like Seattle, and states, including Connecticut, have created mandatory recycling laws, which levy fines for households and businesses that throw a certain percentage of recyclable materials in with garbage waste. Buffalo is taking a kinder, gentler approach by educating and encouraging, with the goal of improving both the quantity and quality of recycling. “Hopefully when the new contract period starts [after the Modern Recycling contract ends],” says Attridge, “we will have a much better product in our recyclables and the commodities markets will have turned around.”
Reimagining Buffalo recycling
To that end, they are launching Recycling Reinvented, a six-month campaign of targeted messaging, with the goal of reducing contamination in the City’s residential recycling totes, while increasing recycling overall. “The campaign is partially in response to China’s National Sword policy,” says Attridge. This is a 2018 embargo that restricts imports of twenty-four types of waste material and imposes tough new standards for contamination on others. It’s had a devastating impact on global recycling.
Buffalo’s first Recycling Reinvented e-blast went out last week. It asks the question: “Did you know that the City of Buffalo has a Green Tote Hit List?” Then it goes on to identify the four most harmful items, which should never go in a recycle container:
* Plastic Bags
* Yard Waste
* Clothing Items
* Food Waste
Each month Recycling Reinvented will spotlight one of these categories with more detailed information.
Enquiring minds what to know
I’m personally looking forward to February, where they will discuss plastic bags/wrap. I’m constantly wondering what exactly is okay, and what’s not. I know those flimsy grocery bags (soon to be outlawed in New York State) cannot be recycled, but how about frozen vegetable bags? How heavy does plastic have to be before it’s recyclable? Hopefully these questions will be answered.
Are you serious?
“It is so important that Buffalonians get behind waste reduction and recycling as a community,” Attridge says, “It is a great way for each person to have a positive impact on their environment both in nature and in the neighborhood. The city’s goal is to achieve Mayor Brown’s goal of thirty-four percent waste diversion.”
Wait, what? Thirty-four percent? That’s the goal? During World War II, Americans got on board for recycling to save money for the war effort. A national campaign included 400,000 volunteer citizens, who worked to aid the troops. Now we face another war of sorts. A war against the accumulation of human waste. And all we can hope for is thirty-four percent cooperation?
All I know is I can do my little part. So can you.
Keeping up with the Collinses
Last week we reported on Chris Collins’ recent sentence for his insider trading conviction. But there were two other culprits/victims of the former Congressman’s hubris and instinct to cheat. The first was his son, Cameron, also convicted of a felony for selling off stocks before the public knew they would soon become near worthless. But, in sentencing the twenty-seven-year-old Collins, Manhattan federal court judge Vernon Broderick decided not “to adhere to the idiom ‘the sins of the father are visited upon the children.'”
Broderick agreed that the younger Collins—who idolized his father—was drawn into perpetrating a crime that he otherwise wouldn’t have likely committed. At the time of his wrongdoing, he was a twenty-four-year-old kid who routinely followed his father’s financial advice. "I wish I had hung up the phone," the younger Collins said in court, referring to the day the senior Collins called to urge him to sell his stock. Later he went along with the cover story his father concocted, adding another crime to his rap sheet. In court on the day of the sentencing, dad got all the blame. Cameron Collins got five years of probation, with six months home confinement, a $150,000 fine, and 500 hours of community service.
The next culprit/victim is sentenced
Sadder is the case of sixty-seven-year-old Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins’ fiancée. He, too, answered the phone, this time when the younger Collins called to tell him to sell the stock he had bought. Zarsky had no business jeopardizing his family’s savings on a risky stock investment. But the judge noted that he led a troubled life and is in ill health, which was exacerbated by the strain of his arrest and conviction. Zarsky is a wannabe musician and songwriter. “I hope that someday you will hear my songs and hear the other side of me,” he told Judge Broderick in court. Broderick sentenced him to four years’ probation, including four months of home detention, and 250 hours of community service. He also has to pay back $143,900 with interest, to settle a separate Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit.
Broderick told Cameron Collins and Stephen Zarsky the same thing: “You’re getting a break here.” And that puts an end to the years-long Collins’ saga.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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