Commercial Waste Zone Supporters Testify at Hearing

Commercial waste collection in New York City may soon be reformed. Currently, NYC municipal sanitation workers collect residential waste and recycling while private carting companies collect commercial waste and recycling. New York City has operated under this private hauler system for commercial waste since the 1950s. There are over 90 commercial waste collection companies for businesses to choose from. Private waste haulers have no geographic restrictions, allowing them to contract with any business in the city, leading to circuitous pick-up routes, increased vehicle pollution and congestion. As a result, there is significant overlap in carter activity citywide; some city blocks see up to 400 garbage trucks pass by on a daily basis.

New York City is seeking a solution by proposing commercial waste zones (CWZ), which divides the city into geographic zones and assigns carters to each. Private haulers would compete to serve businesses in these zones, and those chosen will have to follow strict environmental, safety, labor, and customer service standards. Implementing commercial waste zones will lead to waste reduction, as well as a reduction in truck traffic.

The idea of commercial waste zones in NYC was introduced in 2013 when advocates began campaigning to reform waste management in the city. As part of Mayor De Blasio’s OneNYC plan in 2015, a study on commercial waste collection in the city was announced. The next year in 2016, the NYC Department of Sanitation and the Business Integrity Commission released the study of the benefits of commercial waste zones.

In 2018, DSNY officially proposed a plan to implement a zone based system to manage commercial waste. They proposed creating twenty zones, with three to five carters in each. Every zone would have between 3,300 to 9,800 customers. This would reduce miles travelled by garbage trucks by roughly half, and reduce emissions from commercial waste collection by two-thirds.

In addition to the emissions reductions from more efficient routes, the DSNY plan would also decrease waste disposal and incentivize recycling. Each carter would be required to submit a zero waste plan, offer organics collection to every customer, and price recycling and organics collection lower than refuse. Further, it incentivizes cleaner fleets by stating carters with plans to adopt alternative fueling technologies “will be given higher consideration during the solicitation review process”.

In May 2019, New York City Council Sanitation Committee Chair Antonio Reynoso introduced enabling legislation, Intro 1574, to create commercial waste zones in the city. The City Council recently held a hearing to discuss the legislation. Environmental, pedestrian safety and labor advocates were among the groups attending to show support for the bill, including NYLCV.

The bill differs in some ways from DSNY’s plan. Intro 1574 also proposes splitting the city into twenty zones, though each with only one commercial hauler. However, like the DSNY plan, Intro 1574 still prioritizes clean fleets, reducing waste disposal and vehicle miles travelled, increasing recycling, and creating a more efficient waste management system overall.

A recent report by the Transform Don’t Trash Coalition estimates passing Intro 1574 will reduce vehicle miles travelled by 60%, and greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million tons per year as a result of less trucking and more organics recycling.

NYLCV showed support for CWZ at the hearing with written testimony. Our NYC Program Director Adriana Espinoza highlighted the inefficiency of the current system, and stated that zones will improve waste management, air quality, and help the city achieve its goal of zero waste by 2030.

Espinoza discussed NYLCV’s five priorities for the legislation including higher diversion of waste from landfills, reduction of vehicle miles traveled, prioritization for clean fleets, green jobs, and support for micro-haulers.

NYLCV recommended the following:

  1. Increasing the diversion of waste from landfills by creating individualized goals for every zone, and that haulers provide an education program for their customers on how to sort their waste.
  1. Lowering vehicle miles traveled through incentives for commercial waste haulers to use waste transfer stations nearest to their zone.
  1. Using the creation of commercial waste zones as an opportunity to assist the transition to cleaner vehicles. Currently, only 62% of commercial waste haulers comply with LL145, the vehicle emissions law which requires commercial waste vehicles to 2007 engine standards or higher. NYLCV recommends haulers who commit to going beyond LL145 requirements be given extra points towards their CWZ application when competing for zone.
  1. DSNY estimates some loss of jobs will come with waste zones. NYLCV recommends that Intro 1574 include training programs for those New Yorkers to transition into the new jobs created by a CWZ system–food rescue, organics processing and materials recovery.
  1. Allowing subcontracting with micro-haulers who collect smaller amounts of recyclable material, typically with zero emissions vehicles. This would allow more businesses to participate in organics, e-waste, and textile recycling.

You can read our waste zones testimony here. NYLCV will continue to advocate for policies that reduce waste and decrease emissions.