WASTE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS OPPOSE NEW YORK CITY’S PROPOSAL FOR COMMERCIAL WASTE ZONES
Better Options Available to Pursue City’s New Goals
By: Kendall Christiansen, Executive Director New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management and Steve Changaris Northeast Chapter Manager National Waste & Recycling Association
Two leading waste industry associations – New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management and the New York City Chapter of the National Waste and Recycling Association – jointly criticized and rejected the Plan announced by the City’s Department of Sanitation to implement a new system of geographic zones and city-selected companies to provide waste-related services to the city’s businesses and industries.
(NYRWM and NWRA represent the twenty city-licensed waste collection companies that handle more than 85% of New York City’s commercial waste system, and provide other waste, recycling and organics processing services.)
“We have been critical of the City’s intentions since first announced two years ago. We believe the city is best served by a highly-regulated system of licensed companies providing competitive and efficient services, with a high level of customer satisfaction. All of the City’s new goals are already in law, being implemented or can be better pursued through alternative approaches.”
Zoned systems have a checkered track record for managing commercial waste because of the wide range of service requirements, which is why most cities have rejected them – and previous consideration of this concept has failed to gain any traction in New York City. Business and environmental groups should be very skeptical about the city’s intention to blow up the existing system with the uncertain prospect it can replace it with a better city-managed system.
In fact, nearly all of the city’s new goals already are being implemented effectively by our members: cleaner-engine trucks are required by the end of 2019; new commercial recycling and organics diversion laws and regulations already are being implemented; customer rights are protected under existing law; and improving industry safety is being effectively pursued in collaboration with the Business Integrity Commission – including rapid adoption of new safety-related technology.
The most recent example of a zone-based system in Los Angeles has been widely critized for thousands of service disruption, new charges for services, and basic service costs that doubled, tripled and quadrupled – leaving its businesses with no choice or options, with just seven companies selected to provide exclusive service in eleven zones. The San Diego City Council recently rejected a zone-system proposal, choosing to improve its open-market system.
In contrast, the private-sector waste industry has served New York City well for decades with many companies spanning generations. Together they accomplish the miracle every night of collecting and managing 12,000 tons of waste, recyclables and organics generated by the city’s businesses, as well as providing essential services for what DSNY collects but can’t process or manage on its own. Converting this system to one controlled by the City risks an array of unintended consequences, especially because it lacks any precedent from elsewhere.
When fully implemented, the city’s plan could result in as few as five companies left standing. In addition to threatening the existence of dozens of local companies, thousands of workers are now at risk – including many benefit from the industry’s “second-chance” opportunities for good middle-class jobs.
While the commercial waste industry welcomes the challenge of the city’s new goals for its commercial waste system, we believe that pursuing those goals could be done sooner, faster and cheaper by considering alternative approaches – such as outlined in Intro 996 proposed by Councilmember Robert Cornegy. The upcoming environmental review process will be an important opportunity for all concerned to fairly assess whether the city’s plan merits serious consideration, or whether other approaches to reform would be better.
New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management
Northeast Chapter Manager
National Waste & Recycling Association