City Study: Implement Zoned-Collection System for Private Carting Industry

Results from a cooperative study between the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the NYC Business Integrity Commission (BIC) recommend that New York City overhaul the current waste collection system to implement Commercial Waste Collection Zones. Currently, over 3 million tons of waste and recyclables are collected via private carting from commercial establishments such as offices, hotels, and restaurants.

Currently offices, hotels, and restaurants contract with private carters individually. This leads to different enterprises selecting the cheapest or most suitable option, dependent on their business functions.  Because of the current system, there are city blocks that have the potential to have several different private carters serving various businesses. This leads to congested streets from truck traffic, and higher levels of pollution due to the emissions from several trucks serving the same purpose using the roads.

Now, DSNY and BIC are in the process of selecting stakeholders from a broad spectrum of businesses, private carters, and environmental justice advocacy groups in an attempt to roll out a strategic plan towards reforming commercial waste collection throughout NYC. At the end of the system overhaul, researchers expect a 49-68% reduction in traffic due to commercial waste collection which would result in a 42-64% reduction in associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of the key takeaways from the study are:

*Nearly 90 private carters serve approximately 108,000 customers in New York City.
*The five largest carters serve 46 percent of all customers, collecting 55% of revenue.
*The 20 largest carters serve 81% of customers, collecting 84% percent of revenue.
*Private carters are geographically dispersed: 38 percent of carters with fewer than 1,000 customers operate in three or more boroughs.
*Commercial customers pay on average approximately 30 percent less than the rate cap set by BIC, with larger customers paying an average of 38% less than small businesses, with a lack of pricing transparency
*With the exception of Staten Island, there is little connection between geography and rates paid by customers.

Daniel Brownell, Commissioner of BIC stated that by implementing commercial waste zones, the City will be able to, “… reduce truck traffic and vehicle emissions, achieve greater recycling rates, especially for organic materials, and create greater uniformity in the trade waste industry as a whole…” leading to achieve the zero waste goals set by the city.

Case studies from other cities show that the cost of creating a bid process by dividing the city up into different zones and opening them up for bids by private carters will lead to a decrease in costs for customers.  The reduction of vehicles and emissions will allow for more seamless and effective waste collection strategies, leading to quicker pickup times and less traffic, and allow for the time and money to be spent on more efficient vehicles than for sitting in traffic or carting all over the city.

A major highlight that Commissioner Garcia highlights is that,  “You’d just be able to track [the industry] a lot better and be able to hold them accountable… We’d be able to force them, under this particular scheme, to get their act together.”

Not only will reductions in emissions and traffic lead to better street-level living situations, it will also allow for environmental benefits, especially at the transfer stations of North Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and the South Bronx – areas currently plagued with traffic and pollution from the constant flow of garbage trucks. Included in these benefits are better working conditions and safer lifestyles for workers and residents alike.

The next year will determine the fate of this historic and monumental change that New York City is taking towards reducing emissions and meeting zero waste.

For more information, check out the study’s executive summary.