Adi Talwar

A 2012 study estimated that the city generates between 3.5 million and 5.5 million tons of commercial waste per year.

The City Council faces a choice in restructuring the waste disposal system that will have severe consequences for the hardworking New Yorkers in the private waste disposal industry.

Legislation supported by some in the New York City Council would establish an exclusive zone system where the Department of Sanitation would select only 20 private carters to collect trash from businesses in 20 zones. Those who have put their support behind this legislation are turning a blind eye to the recommendations of rigorous research, industry experts, engineers and city officials who know the system best.

Although our city’s private waste management system needs to adapt and improve, it is critical that the plan chosen actually work for the city.

In limiting private trash collection to only 20 private caterers, an exclusive waste zone system would create colossal corporate garbage monopolies and force longstanding small businesses to close their doors. This would cast hardworking waste disposal workers on the streets, costing jobs and leaving all workers in the industry with threatened job security.

The exclusive zone plan will not only decimate small businesses and jobs—all New York residents will suffer.

A $10 million study conducted by the city reached a sobering and clear conclusion: An exclusive system will not work in New York. The results and recommendations of the study are further supported by real life example. Just look to Los Angeles.

The City of Los Angeles recently implemented an exclusive zone system and it resulted in disaster. L.A. residents experienced higher prices, ad-on fees and missed pickups and filed hundreds of complaints that the Board of Public works is still working to remedy. But, this is all avoidable in New York City if those with decision-making power simply listen to the research and look at the facts.

We are not doomed to a disastrous fate for workers, small businesses and residents because we have another option: a multi-zone system.

A multi-zone waste system would allow for multiple haulers in designated zones throughout the City. Rigorous research executed with the support of industry experts, engineers and city officials supports a multi-zone system as the right solution for New York. However, this change only presents a promising alternative if it is accompanied by a just transition for private waste management workers. A just transition means ensuring that the 1,700 workers in the private waste disposal industry have job security, standard wages, safety standards and benefits in the changeover period to a new system.

Ultimately, it comes down to the people. Every day, hundreds of private waste disposal workers descend on New York City with one goal: to keep our city safe and clean. The very functioning of our economy depends on their work. And in a city as vast and complex as New York, the task is grueling. That’s why above all else and regardless of the plan, New York must maintain standards for workers in the transition. This is especially true given that jobs may be lost under either plan.

New York needs a restructuring plan that promises positive change and does not leave workers behind. The factors add up to a simple conclusion: the expert research-supported multi-zone system that will save jobs and protect small businesses while ensuring the system serves residents is the best plan for New York City. The failure-bound exclusive zone system that will cost hundreds of jobs and small businesses while feeding corporate greed has no place in our City.

New Yorkers must demand the exclusive zone plan be dismissed, the multi-zone system adopted and a just transition for workers undertaken.

Fritz Schneider is the Business Manager of Local 108.