With Earth Day and PlaNYC’s Renewal Looming, Advocates Call on Mayor de Blasio to Raise the City’s Dismal Recycling Rate
New York, NY— The Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition released a report detailing how New York City produces more commercial waste, recycles less, and is more inefficient than previously believed. The report, Dirty, Wasteful and Unsustainable: The Case for Reforming New York City’s Commercial Waste System reveals hidden Bloomberg-era reports and new data from a community survey to uncover how NYC’s commercial waste system harms communities and the environment.
One hidden government report revealed that New York City’s businesses generate about 5.5 million tons of waste per year — 2 million tons more than the City has told the public. New York City leads the nation in the amount of commercial waste it generates, but it is far below the national average in how much commercial waste it recycles. Another report, revealed now for the first time, found that the commercial recycling rate is only about 25%, significantly worse than the 40% rate published in Mayor Bloomberg’s 2011 PlaNYC update. Moreover, annual reports filed by private waste companies with the state suggest that recycling by major haulers may be much lower – only 9-13% in 2014.
“This previously undisclosed research shows that New York City has been burying far too much of its commercial waste – millions of tons each year – in landfills, while also burying the evidence of just how unsustainable, polluting and inefficient the commercial waste system is,” said Gavin Kearney, Director of Environmental Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “The new administration can and must tackle these problems head-on. By going from back-of-the-pack to national leader, New York City can eliminate millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, improve our public health, and create thousands of quality local jobs.”
Transform Don’t Trash NYC undertook a community survey in all five boroughs, evaluating the number of different waste haulers operating in some of the city’s busiest commercial districts. Our analysis, corroborated by one of the buried reports, shows that city streets are inundated with thousands of commercial collection trucks overlapping one another on inefficient collection routes, burdening communities and wearing on streets.
The Transform Don’t Trash NYC survey found as many as 22 different hauling companies operating on individual commercial strips. Similarly, the 2012 DSNY study examined commercial truck traffic in 13 community districts throughout the City and found more than 25 different private haulers collecting commercial garbage in every one. In Midtown Manhattan, the report identified 79 different haulers collecting garbage. In some other cities, just one hauler is responsible for such an area.
“For decades, low-income communities and communities of color have handled a disproportionate burden of NYC’s commercial waste. This report shows how all of the excess trucks on the road damage the environment and public health; and it should be a wake-up call to policymakers that we need a better system,” according to Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA).
“There is no route that makes sense in the entire industry,” said Allan Henry, a private sanitation worker. “I do about 70 miles a day, and it shouldn’t be that way. If the routes were consolidated, we could drive fewer miles, do the work more safely, reduce pollution, and save money on gas and truck and road repairs.”
Advocates urged the Mayor and the City Council to transform the commercial waste industry in New York City in order to increase recycling, good jobs and justice. With the renewal of PlaNYC in just two days, they are hoping to see a 70% commercial recycling goal included in the City’s sustainability plan. Advocates emphasized that becoming a truly sustainable city depends on setting ambitious, achievable goals for recycling in the commercial waste sector.
”As a city, we can and must do much better when it comes to recycling commercial waste,” said Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN. “Increasing recycling would not only reduce pollution and the city’s impact on climate change; if done right, it could create better jobs and dramatically improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”
On April 29, the New York City Council Sanitation Committee is holding a public oversight hearing to discuss the problems in the commercial waste industry. Workers, community members, small business owners and advocates from the Transform Don’t Trash coalition plan to bring their report’s latest findings to City Council members, who have the power to create policies to bring the industry into the 21st century.
ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York’s mission is to create good jobs, vibrant communities, and an accountable democracy for all New Yorkers. Our work unites worker, community, and other allies to build a more just and sustainable New York.
The Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition is a growing coalition dedicated to transforming New York City’s commercial trash industry to reduce waste and pollution, foster clean and healthy communities for all New Yorkers, and create good jobs. For more information, please visit www.transformdonttrashnyc.org