New Bill to Distribute Waste Processing Equitably across NYC

Questions Remain about Job Security for Sanitation Workers

The New York City Council is floating a new version of Intro 495, a bill initially proposed in 2014, to cut back on the amount of waste that is disproportionately processed in three city neighborhoods. The original legislation called for an 18% reduction in the amount of waste processed in North Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the South Bronx, while the new draft calls for 50%. The reduction would be in the “permitted capacity” of the facilities in each neighborhood, which means reducing the total volume of waste that could potentially be processed at any given waste transfer facility. Since the overburdened districts are currently processing 70% of the city’s waste, the goal of Intro 495 is to disperse waste-processing equitably throughout the city so that no neighborhoods are overburdened with the truck traffic, air pollution, and strain of processing too much of other neighborhoods’ waste.

The new Intro 495 would put a 10% cap on transfer stations throughout the city, so that no individual station would be allowed to process more than 10% of the city’s waste when operating at full capacity. The new bill exempts recycling facilities and facilities that transport waste by rail and barge, as those methods do not bring on the same congestion and pollution as truck transportation.

There has already been some opposition, though. The Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET) feels that the bill doesn’t make adequate protections for the workers at the current facilities, and that job loss will ensue from scaling them down. The bill does recommend creating a displaced workers list, and passing that list on to facility owners so that displaced workers may be given priority consideration at other facilities, but the LECET claims this measure isn’t strong enough, and disrespects waste industry workers. Several facility owners have also criticized the bill on the grounds that evenly distributing waste processing across the city’s geography doesn’t account for the logistical nuances of the waste collection process. Additionally, the  City’s 2006 transfer station plan put several marine processing facilities into diverse neighborhoods, several of which are yet to become operational. Some critics of Intro 495 feel it is inappropriate to design a new plan when the old plan hasn’t been fully implemented yet.

The New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a group which advocates for the bill, acknowledges some complications with the bill, but said that many measures in the new bill were specifically tailored to address the complaints of opponents.  Members of City Council are still editing the bill, and are working to strike a balance between protecting communities from environmental and health concerns, and accommodating the waste-processing jobs and infrastructure already in place. Not an easy task. Nonetheless, we are pleased such thoughtful consideration being given to a very complex and pressing issue.