New York City Plans to Address Commercial Waste

This past week, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) unveiled its much-anticipated plan to reform the inefficient way that garbage generated by businesses and large private institutions is currently collected by dividing the city into commercial waste zones. The new plan is a significant step forward in reducing truck congestion and addressing the amount of waste in our landfills.

Commercial waste carters drive redundant routes in notoriously unsafe conditions, causing traffic congestion and increasing air pollution. In some parts of the city, more than 50 carters service a single neighborhood, and an individual commercial block may see dozens of private waste collection trucks on a given night. Inefficient routes and unnecessary truck traffic adversely affect public health and the environment, worsening air quality, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and causing excessive noise.

The newly unveiled plan would create twenty nonexclusive zones with 3-5 carters operating per zone. The City will designate which carters operate in each zone through a competitive proposal solicitation process. Each zone has between 3,300 and 9,800 total customers. This zone design will allow waste carters to hold denser customer bases for more efficient operations. With a denser customer base, trucks will travel less between stops.

We’re encouraged that the plan incentivizes recycling and organics collection. Carters will be required to provide recycling and organics collection as standard are priced lower than regular waste. This will encourage customers to create less waste and recycle more. Carters would also be required to identify any existing processing facilities that they will use to accommodate additional recyclables and organics as these streams grow.

According to the plan, creating these zones will reduce truck traffic by over 60%. Adding to the air quality benefits achieved from the reduced truck traffic is an already-enacted law, Local Law 145 of 2013, which requires all carters to operate fuel-efficient trucks that reduce emissions by January 2020. Both waste zones and cleaner truck requirements have the potential to significantly reduce harmful emissions from this industry, and it is imperative that commercial waste carters are prepared to comply with LL 145 by 2020.

The plan helps ensure pricing protections for consumers. Pricing will account for at least 40% of overall score in the solicitation review, favoring carters that can keeps costs low. DSNY will propose a maximum rate for carters.

Improved training and safety standards that are included in the plan aim to make the industry safer for workers and the public

Solutions like this are an important step in making city streets more livable, reducing waste, decreasing pollution from trucks, and combating climate change. We applaud Sanitation Commissioner Garcia for her leadership on this plan and look forward to working to ensure that it achieves the deepest reductions possible in waste, truck congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions. Read more about the plan at