Long Island’s Rising Cost of Livings Leads to Residents Losing Homes

(This piece was done as a capstone project in my senior year of college.)

In a sequestered area of Medford, New York, a neighborhood is riddled with “For Sale” signs. Dilapidated homes with vinyl siding peeling away, door handles hanging off their frames, and house numbers spray-painted on the front of the houses. From the street you can hear the sounds of children inside, some laughing and some crying. The driveway is overflowing with cars, despite the home being no more than three bedrooms, and it being 2:15pm on a Tuesday. This home is in foreclosure, and at some point in the future the family inside will likely be evicted. Dozens of homes within five miles will be in foreclosure in the coming months. 

These scenes have played out all across New York in the last year, particularly in Suffolk County. The state and county have been outliers in the national trend of plummeting foreclosure rates. The rate of foreclosure and delinquency in the United States are at their lowest in levels in 10 years, according to real estate news publication Think Realty. While that trend holds true nationwide, six states have seen an increase in the number of foreclosures between 2016 and 2018. New York had the third highest increase in foreclosures during this period with a rate of 9%, being beaten only by Vermont with 27% and West Virginia with 33%, according to Attom Data Solutions. 

“There’s no way they (foreclosure rates) can’t go up. People can’t hold on anymore,” said foreclosure attorney Catherine Laviano when asked about the excessive business she’s seen in people trying desperately to avoid foreclosure. 

Homeowners come to attorneys like Mrs. Laviano when they’ve been served foreclosure notices by their mortgage lender, usually a bank, for failing to make their mortgage payments. They will typically request a mortgage modification, which functions as a “re-negotiation” of their mortgage contract, allowing them to set up a period of very low interest for several years, with interest increasing on a yearly basis. It allows people to try and catch up with their payments and prevent the banks from proceeding with the foreclosure process. Laviano has several clients that have defaulted several times and come to her for a second or even third mortgage modification. 

When most of us think about foreclosure, we imagine after not making mortgage payments, the banks go up to a delinquent homeowner and kick them out of the house right then and there. They put signs on the windows and board up the doors and that’s that. This does happen in some states, but New York is what’s referred to as a “judicial state.” In a judicial state, the homeowner has a legal right to fight the foreclosure process and attempt to keep their home. Often they will go through mortgage modifications. A mortgage modification is essentially a re-negotiation of a mortgage contract to a lower interest rate for a period of time with the intent of making the loan more affordable. Sometimes they’ll declare bankruptcy. Often they will do both. 


Laviano and dozens of other attorneys provide a necessary service to those struggling with keeping their homes. Often they’ll reach out for those services after their third missed payment. After the third missed payment, most mortgage lenders won’t allow the homeowner to pay any partial debt, it becomes all or nothing. If a homeowner owes $10,000 and they have $9,500 in their account, it doesn’t matter. The bank moves forward with foreclosure. 

When the bank decides to move forward with foreclosure, they sue the homeowner, and the case goes to court. This begins an often lengthy process of dragging out the trial for as long as possible. Often, that involves the homeowner declaring bankruptcy. If the home is owned by a couple, one will declare bankruptcy to delay the trial and then the other will follow suit. In these cases homes can stay in the foreclosure anywhere from 3-7 years. 

During this time the residents can live in the home, and no mortgage is paid until the case is settled or the homeowners are evicted. Some homeowners will rent out the the house in a last desperate attempt to save their home. Andrew Owad was one of the tenants that lived in a home that was being rented out in an attempt to save it. 

“I think it started with a nasty divorce,” Mr. Owad said. “That was enough for them to nearly lose their home.”


While the rise in foreclosures has been a nightmare for homeowners and those in poor financial circumstances, house flippers have been swimming in a sea of cheap real estate and potential investments.

Kyle Clark is one of those making use of the lucrative situation. He is 22 years old. A tall and thin young man dressed in slightly baggy jeans a grey hoodie, he doesn’t quite have the look that comes to mind when you think “real estate shark.” He went to college for about a year before dropping out, deciding that school was never for him. His day job is at a printing company, but he started flipping houses for extra money three years ago. He is currently working on a house he bought in Mastic, one of the harder-hit neighborhoods in terms of foreclosure. It was sold at a bank auction for $230,000. It is expected to sell for around $400,000. 

The house he is renovating is in shabby condition, with mold in the kitchen, antiquated windows, plumbing and electrical problems and in need of a cosmetic re-design. The two-floor home is fairly large compared to others in the area, but much of the inside is antiquated and isn’t up to Town of Brookhaven code. Despite the unsightly conditions, Clark says that this house is in the best condition of those he has purchased. 

“I probably need to put around 70 to 80 thousand worth of work into the place, which is a lot but still nets me about 100 thousand in the end,” said Clark. 

In the case of this home, the homeowners left the state several months after beginning to default on their mortgage. They had renters in the home when they left, and when the owner stopped paying their mortgage, the tenants stopped paying their rent. They lived in the house without paying rent for seven years, riding the wave of the foreclosure machine. After finally being evicted, it was repossessed by the bank and sold to Mr. Clark, though it wasn’t a simple purchase. 

“There are usually around 10-15 people bidding on the same houses. Everyone from professional investors or people with extra money are jumping to invest,” Clark said.  

While Clark stands to make a substantial amount of money from his investment, the seven people that lived in that home were forced to find a new place to live, just some of thousands in Suffolk County that will be evicted from their homes in the next several years. 


The most significant cause for this regional rise in foreclosures is the cost of living on Long Island. The average cost for property taxes on a $400,000 home in Medford, NY is $8,876 annually. This is a rate of 2.219% of the home value. The national average is 1.211%. The statewide average for property tax is 1.65%, according to smartasset.com‘s property tax calculator. 

Property taxes don’t seem to be getting any lower in New York. The average property tax has increased for the last three years, according to data taken by ATTOM Data Solutions. 

The Long Island Housing Partnership is one of dozens of non-profit organizations set up in New York to aid in keeping homeowners in their homes as well as helping find affordable housing and providing counseling on first time home buyers. These groups have subsisted off of funding taken from the settlements from lawsuits involving the nations largest banks after the 2008 housing crisis. 

A New Age of Competition

(This was an article I wrote for a magazine writing class during my undergrad)

Davin wakes up every morning between the hours of 10 am and noon. He goes to his kitchen to make coffee and goes back into his cluttered bedroom to his desk. While wiping the sleep from his eyes, he boots up his computer and begins checking emails and social media feeds, responding to messages from fans and emails from sponsors and professional organizations. Davin then posts on Twitter that he’ll be starting a stream soon, usually around 1 or 2 pm. He boots up H1Z1 and his work day begins.

  He will be at the desk for the next 10 to 15 hours. This is the life of an Esports athlete. 

Davin has made his livelihood through the burgeoning scene of competitive gaming and streaming. He streams his matches through the live video service, Twitch, a platform centered around video game-related content. On Twitch, players commentate their gameplay live for an audience that is tuning in from around the world. The platform has grown exponentially in recent years, with content creators making millions showcasing their skills and charisma. Twitch creators get paid based on the number of people that subscribe to their channel, as well as through donations made by their fans through the website. Davin makes his living in a combination of money from Twitch and his earnings from tournaments. 

There are quite a few games in the esports scene at the moment, but Davin’s game of choice is H1Z1. It is a “battle royale” shooter, a fairly new genre that pits a group of approximately 100 players against each other in a giant arena. When the game starts they must gather supplies and weapons to take out other players and be the last one standing. It’s a bit like a video game version of the Hunger Games. 

“H1Z1 was the game I thrived on most. It just clicked with me, I can’t really explain why,” Davin said.

The “battle royale” genre has become immensely popular with two titles controlling the genre— Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite. The latter has been making headlines for its meteoric rise to fame. In December of 2017 the average number of concurrent viewers was 40,000 and as of May 2018 that number has increased to 150,000, according to PCGamer.com. One Fortnite streamer that goes by the handle of “Ninja” was recently featured on NBC for his reported income of 500 thousand dollars per month from Twitch. Another well-known celebrity in the world of gaming goes by the name “Dr. Disrespect,” a bit of a living caricature of himself. At the yearly convention for Twitch streamers and fans, he lived up to his own bombastic persona. 

“Dr. Disrespect showed up in a Lamborghini, because obviously he would,” Davin  recalled.

On Davin’s streams he stays fairly quiet, letting his top-tier gameplay speak for itself. Most of the screen on his broadcast is dedicated to the game, with the bottom left corner showing a view of his face. Like most streamers he also keeps a playlist of music going, usually of some new hip-hop music. The rapper Post Malone is on fairly heavy rotation during his stream. Periodically during his games he’ll respond to the messages from his viewers and interact with them in real time. He says that this has always been his favorite part of streaming, talking with the viewers. 

H1Z1 is one of the earlier attempts at the battle royale genre, being released in early 2016. It was around this time that Davin started spending most of his time practicing the game. During the 10 to 15 hours of his day while streaming his content he is tirelessly practicing. He’ll take notes on strategies and keep track of his kill-count and his wins and losses. After playing he reviews the footage of his past games to analyze what worked and what didn’t, refining his strategy for future games.

Competitive video game playing requires a different skill set than most professionals, but it takes just as much effort and time to perfect. Lightning fast reflexes and complex decision making are two of the key factors that come into play when separating a casual player from a professional. For shooter games, services such as 3D Aim Trainer have popped up to provide players with a way to test and improve their reaction time and aiming skills. These services provide millisecond-accurate data on how fast their player is aiming. Often before a tournament, players will spend several hours practicing with these tools to warm up before they play. It’s not all that different from a football player running drills or an olympic runner stretching before a race. 

Another tool in the Esports players toolkit is usually found in the gear of mountain climbers— hand warmers. If you watch a live stream of a tournament, you’ll probably see players using hand warmers before the game. The purpose of this is two-fold: they keep the hands warm to improve circulation as well as keep your hands dry. In high adrenaline situations it is common for someone’s hands to become cold and sweaty. When players are in a situation where thousands or even millions of dollars are on the line. Any improvement in their play, no matter how seemingly minute, can be the difference between winning and losing.  

Behind the faces of the players, the lights and spectacle of stages and the glory of competition lies the business side of this rising industry. The companies that work most closely with the players are player agencies, of which there are many. These organizations help organize their teams and get them into higher profile, larger prize pool tournaments, provide them with travel and hotel arrangements, design and provide their jerseys for events, and manage sponsorships. They range from multi-million dollar organizations such as Optic Gaming to smaller tight-knit groups such as Sway Gaming. 

Sway is based out of New York and was started in 2008 by Anthony Pellone and Anthony Morris. They go by the handles of “Kuoda” and “Hostility” respectively. In Pellone’s day job he works for an environmental science lab while Morris holds a job in state government. They work on Sway in their spare time and most of the money invested in the business has been their own. Despite Sway not being their primary source of income, Pellone and Morris run their organization like a machine, while never forgetting that the players make it all possible.

“The hierarchy of Sway is set up in a sort of governmental aspect. We’re the two people deciding on things at the end of the day, but we make sure everybody gets a voice. Everybody gets asked about sponsors, everybody gets consulted,” Morris says. 

They started the organization in 2011 after going to local tournaments and seeing the growing interest in competitive gaming as a lifestyle and as a profession. Both moderately competitive players at the time, they also wanted to foster a community for like-minded people to share their passion for this niche culture. 

It would take until 2013 for Sway to get involved in supporting players for tournaments. In that time they began slowing growing their business and their brand, as any small business does. In the world of Esports expansion consists of finding better and more talented players to become part of your organization. They look for these players like most other talent scouts, attending tournaments and Esports related conventions to scope out players and subsequently follow their progress online through their streams. If they find a player or team that they think has promise, they’ll approach them about being part of their organization.

When Davin went to his first major Esports tournament in Dallas in 2015, his performance was noticed by Esports recruiters. He was soon after signed onto Circa Esports as a professional H1Z1 player. He spent about a year and a half with Circa until the Esports organization disbanded in early 2018. After that he was picked up by Mortem Esports, who still represents him. 

Much of the financial backing for these groups comes from the sponsors. If you’ve ever seen a basketball game where all the players are wearing Nike sneakers or seen Gatorade logo covered coolers on the benches of a football game, then you’re probably familiar with the concept. Brands will pay people to use their products or put their logos somewhere on their clothing. While brands like Nike or Gatorade are big players in sports, Esports has brands such as Dell, Intel, Red Bull and even Coca-Cola sponsoring them. 

Smaller organizations such as Sway have smaller companies sponsor their players. They’ve been sponsored by Gamer Gloves, a company that makes gloves intended to help players with sweaty hands keep a grip on the game; Squid Grips, a company that makes rubber grips for controllers and Scuff Gaming, who make customized controllers for players. A company called GFuel makes energy drinks marketed specifically to Esports players and fans. There are a myriad of different companies that want a piece of the action.


The expansion of competitive gaming in America has been a long time coming. The world of Esports has its origins and its largest following in South Korea. Gaming as a whole has a more prevalent place in Korean culture than it does in America. Online gaming is a standard part of life for most Korean children and has been so since the early to mid 1990s. Companies like electronics giant Samsung were some of the first to get major companies like Nintendo and Sega to bring their game consoles into the Korean market from Japan. 

With the increases in computing technology and, just as importantly, internet speeds, online gaming became a staple of Korean culture. As internet prevalence grew, love for gaming intensified and inevitably players began to compete. Gaming for many South Koreans takes place in a PC bang (which literally translates to “PC room”), a type of gaming center where people can come in and play as long as they want for an hourly fee. Usually the fee runs between 1000 and 1500 won, which is approximately $0.90 to $1.35 per hour. These PC bangs have become a place for young adult gamers to congregate and spend time together doing something they all enjoy. Many PC bangs are open 24 hours a day and sell food, drinks or anything else one might need during a several hour gaming binge. 

In the early 2000s professional gaming began to be taken seriously in Korea. Players  became celebrities and fans would travel from all over the country to see them play. In 2005 the first stadium entirely dedicated to Esports was erected in South Korea. South Korea is where the world championships of some of the most popular games such as League of Legends and Starcraft are held. A South Korean League of Legends team called the “Samsung Galaxy” won the League World Championship in 2017, winning $1,540,000 in prize money.

With the resounding success that Esports have had in South Korea, the trend has begun to spread west. Many European nations such as the UK and France began expanding their Esports facilities and franchises and in the last two to three years America has started catching up. In March it was announced that Arlington, Texas will be building a 100,000 square foot Esports stadium in their city, far and away the nation’s largest competitive gaming venue. The stadium is being built just a mile away from AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys.

Organizations like those that worked with Davin are now numerous and commonplace and those that grow and become international in the Esports world go on to become massive businesses. Team Liquid, an American Esports organization, has partnered with Alienware computers to build a 8,000 square foot training facility for their players. 

One shining example of the rise of Esports in the United States is the Overwatch League. Overwatch is a team based shooter that was released in the spring of 2016. It’s an online game centered around intense competition, making it perfect for the Esports scene. The developers of the game, Blizzard Entertainment, knew this and founded the Overwatch League to drive the popularity of Overwatch. 

The Overwatch League functions in a similar way to the NFL or the NBA. There are twelve teams divided into Pacific and Atlantic divisions and named after cities, mostly American, such as the Los Angeles Valiant, the New York Excelsior or the Shanghai Dragons. The teams are owned by both massive Esports organizations as well as private owners. Cloud 9 owns the team London Spitfire and Optic Gaming owns the Houston Outlaws. 

There has even been an intersection with the traditional sports world. New York Excelsior is owned by Jeff Wilpon, the COO of the New York Mets, Philadelphia Fusion is owned by Comcast Spectacor, the owner of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Gladiators are owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment which own the Los Angeles Rams and the Denver Nuggets. 

The Overwatch League is also one of the only American Esports events that runs on a consistent schedule. There are several matches every week, airing on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They take place in an arena in Los Angeles and are broadcast via Twitch to an audience of millions. The broadcasts contain commentary from a panel of shoutcasters who in some ways have become as popular as the players themselves and include advertising from massive brands such as HP and Intel.

When watching an Overwatch League game you will see the same rabid fandom you can see at any tailgate party. Fans come dressed in their favorite players’ jerseys, they make signs, they try to get on camera when they see it passing through the crowd. In many ways it feels like a new age in sports. It provides an outlet for fans’ unwavering dedication to people who are the best of the best at what they love. 

“The Overwatch League has sort of become a glass ceiling right now for what Esports has become, but someone will make it even bigger some day. It’s really exciting to be a part of this,” Anthony Pellone said.  

Players like Davin and so many others practice tirelessly, dedicating their lives to becoming top tier players in the hopes of achieving the glory that comes with winning on a world stage with millions watching. Organizations like Sway, led by two devoted fans trying to build a community, can grow and blossom into a massive empire, giving those players a chance to live out their dream. 

The American Esports scene may still have some catching up to do with South Korea or Europe, but the grassroots passion that exists within those fighting to push their passions further will show how massive Esports can get. So next time you see someone grinding away on Twitch for 10 or 12 hours, the next time you see them might be on a world stage.

A Recycling Crisis Leads to New Innovations

(This is an article I wrote as part of a solutions journalism class during my undergrad)

On the Stony Brook University campus is a building called The Boathouse. It’s a concrete garage that holds the Marine Science program’s boat, vans and supplies. It looks no different from other campus buildings, but it might hold an answer to the recycling and waste crisis. The building is made mostly from trash.

The boathouse has been an experiment for Larry Swanson, a marine sciences professor at Stony Brook, and a few of his colleagues at the university’s Waste Reduction and Management Institute. It was constructed in 1990 using the innovative technique of combining municipal waste ash with concrete for use as an engineering aggregate. The building material is made up of 75 percent waste ash and 25 percent concrete.

Environmental programs and efforts have existed for decades but have taken on a new importance in the last several months as the United States has fallen into a recycling crisis. Early in 2018, the world’s largest customer for recyclables, China, has abruptly cut off imports on other nations’ garbage.

“People are sort of scratching their heads about what to do, but we’re all trying new things,” said Swanson.


On Long Island, in recent decades, most recyclables have been collected by sanitation companies working under contracts with towns. The cans, bottles, plastics and newspapers are taken to town recycling centers, where they are separated by machines and employees based on what kind of materials they are, then the plastics are compacted into bales.

For decades, China has bought most of those bales from U.S. recyclers, a trade which amounted to 10.8 million tons of material and $5.6 billion in 2017, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc.

In May 2018, China stopped buying almost all recyclables from the United States as part of its expanded environmental protection legislation, part of an attempt to curb the environmental damage done by the skyrocketing industrial growth in the nation. With China having industrialized at an unprecedented rate over the last several decades, the country is now beginning to face their own problems with waste, as well as their position as one of the worst polluting countries. It also comes after a 2015 study conducted by research group Berkeley Earth that estimated the rampant pollution contributed to 1.6 million deaths per year in China. Since then, the market for recyclable materials has been nearly non-existent.

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Recycling centers across the country have been at capacity or over capacity now that their main customer is no longer buying from them. Some centers have gotten special permissions from their town or state to bring a portion of those recyclables to landfills so that the centers could keep taking their citizens materials. This has presented another problem as landfills begin to reach their maximum capacities. Use of sustainable building aggregates like those used in The Boathouse could help to to alleviate the issue of landfill space while also buying time to find a new solution for recyclables.
Swanson and his group brought their research to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2017, hoping to get a Beneficial Use Determination, which would allow the technology to be used across the state, but the DEC rejected their attempts despite more than 25 years of environmental test data that scientists supplied.

The DEC’s reasoning for this decision has been concern over whether the public would approve of using repurposed trash in their buildings, Swanson said.

The DEC declined to comment.

Over the past 28 years, the Stony Brook scientists have tested the chemical stability of the boathouse itself and water runoff from the building to make sure no toxic substances were released. The material has proved to be completely safe and chemically stable.

When concrete is poured for a structure, it begins a process called hydration, in which the water and cement begin to form calcium silicate hydrate molecules. This is the glue that holds the material together and creates the durable material we refer to as concrete. As the material absorbs moisture and slowly dries, it strengthens. This process continues over years, and when complete, the material has doubled in hardness and strength. The boathouse has doubled in strength in almost exactly the same fashion as traditional concrete, Swanson said.

Swanson said that regardless of these findings and tests he conducted, the DEC has not changed its stance on the use of municipal ash in concrete, nor has the technique been adopted on large-scale construction projects.

While the DEC struggles over the public perception of these new technologies, the Town of Brookhaven Recycling Center on Long Island in Yaphank, New York has had an exceptionally difficult time dealing with buildup of material since the Chinese banned plastic imports. More than half of the gigantic facility is filled with piles of plastic and paper over 10 feet high. Industrial loaders and forklifts shuffle the waste from place to place in an attempt to provide workers adequate room to sort recyclables.

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A worker looks over his shoulder at the daunting piles of plastic

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The conveyor belts where employees pick through the garbage and recyclables

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Piles of garbage like this are scattered around the Town of Brookhaven recycling center

Employees at the facility often are stationed along extensive conveyor belts that stretch most of length of the building, picking out the non-recyclable material that could not be properly separated by the massive machinery. After this, the recyclables are brought to industrial baling machines where it is compacted into large blocks. Before the China ban took place, it would be sent out to be shipped to China. Now, the blocks just sit and wait.

“This building was clean about a month ago,” a Town of Brookhaven official said during a visit with Stony Brook students in Sep. 2018.

The non-recyclable waste is loaded onto trucks that take it to a nearby incinerator where it is burned and turned to ash. Then, it is loaded back onto the trucks and brought back to the landfill, where it is added to the mountain of dense ash.

While the boathouse presents one solution to the recycling crisis, one of Swanson’s colleagues has been working on another approach.

Another Stony Brook professor, Frank Roethel, has been working on another project that should help the Town of Brookhaven Landfill with its own overcrowding issues. Roethel’s research is mostly in the area of beneficial use of waste. He is seeking approval by the DEC and funding to mine into the landfill to remove some of the usable metals from all the ash.

The process would use a combination of mining technology and sediment sorting technology to separate particles of metal from the ash based on size. According to Roethel’s research, the particles that the machine would collect would be too small to have any significant contamination.

It is easy to mistake the Brookhaven landfill for a mountain at first glance, until you see the blackened color of the ash. Dump trucks are constantly driving up and down hills in the trash to add to the piles. Some sections of the landfill have actually been covered in soil to give the appearance of a natural formation, as well as to seal the compacted trash from outside air and pests.

By Roethel’s estimates, the project should be able to cut down approximately 10 percent of the volume of the landfill and produce $200,000 worth of metal. He was granted a Research, Development and Demonstration Permit by the state on Aug. 10 and hopes to begin the project in the coming months.

Based on the current rate of waste being added to the Brookhaven landfill, it will reach its maximum capacity by 2032, but there have been proposals to close down the landfill sooner due to the rising costs and complaints from people living nearby. It costs about $6 million per year to haul ash to and from the landfill, but it would only cost $3 million to close the landfill over the next two- to three-year period.

Roethel said he hopes that, should the project go well, his team will be granted a “beneficial use determination” from New York State, which would allow the process of mining metals from garbage ash to be used statewide. His largest concern for the project has been funding. The money that would be made from the metals being mined would largely pay for the project, but to begin Roethel needs investments from private companies.

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Just a sliver of the ash mountains at the Brookhaven landfill

“We’re moving in the right direction, but the financial cost is not always viable,” Roethel said.

While Swanson and his colleagues at Stony Brook are working to get their technologies utilized, innovations in waste reduction have not been confined to New York.

On Sept. 5, the Mayor of Baltimore City announced a new program entitled the Baltimore Food Waste Recovery Strategy. Its goals are to reduce commercial food waste in the city by 50 percent, eliminate all food waste from higher education institutions, and divert 90 percent of food and organic waste generated by city officials, all by 2040.

This program is part of a larger accountability system set up by the State of Maryland to encourage waste source reduction programs. The counties that enact these types of programs receive “credits” that count toward their waste diversion goal of 40 percent. The system provides a way of quantifying the amorphous goal of reducing waste and encourages counties to be more proactive in providing environmentally friendly programs.

“If you encourage source reduction efficiently, the amount of waste reduces every year,” Caj Didigu of the Maryland Recycling department said.

The severity of this crisis has made efforts like the source reduction credit system in Maryland all the more important.

The EPA has been putting forth increased efforts in reducing waste in recent years, with case studies in several hospitals across the U.S. Only about 15 percent of a hospital’s waste consists of infectious materials that require incineration. The other 85 percent comprises paper, plastic, food or other recyclable materials. These case studies have been largely conducted by Terry Grogan, chief of the Municipal Waste Reduction Branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In one study, the EPA instituted guidelines to reduce the amount of overall waste produced by the hospital, donate unneeded materials to community groups and nonprofit organizations and institute a comprehensive recycling plan. The Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, increased the amount of solid waste diverted from the waste stream from 10 to 32 percent. After seven years the hospital even saved an average of $100,000 per year in disposal costs.

The effort to reduce waste can bring significant economic benefits even at a small scale. A Pizzeria Uno in New York saved over $1,000 per year simply from replacing cocktail napkins with reusable coasters. The book retailer Barnes & Noble has begun to reuse the boxes it uses to ship product to stores, saving on the cost of cardboard while cutting down on waste.

As recently as Oct. 18, New York City passed a ban on single-use plastic-foam cups. Attempts to ban these cups began in 2013 but have faced repeated challenges by the Dart Container company, makers of Styrofoam. In June 2017, Justice Margaret Chan turned away Dart’s challenge and upheld the ban. The legal battle was fought with help from nonprofit groups such as the National Resources Defense Counsel.

New York City now joins over 200 cities across the U.S. that have banned single-use foam cups.

The mounting pressure of the current recycling crisis is pushing states, counties and companies to put forth new solutions and create innovative solutions that could have a lasting impact on the future of the environment as well as the economy.

“To deal with the issue, we all have to be more inventive,” Caj Didigu said.