Testimony of the National Solid Waste Management Association city council committee on sanitation and solid waste management

Chairwoman James, members of the Committee and distinguished guests, my name is Ron Bergamini. I am the CEO of The Action Environmental Group, the parent company of Action Carting, the largest licensed hauler in New York City. I am here today to testify on behalf of the National Solid Waste Management Association (NSWMA). NSWMA is a non-profit trade organization that represents many licensed haulers who have suffered greatly from cardboard theft over the past few years, and we appreciate the opportunity to testify today.

Many NSWMA members collect both garbage and recyclables from commercial customers. Although the companies pay to dispose of the garbage, they are paid for the recyclables, and the commodity that is the focus of today’s hearing, cardboard. Today recycling facilities in the New York City metropolitan area pay haulers more than $100 per ton for cardboard. Every day, tens of thousands of customers put out waste and cardboard for collection. Every night, a substantial amount of it is illegally removed by unlicensed trucks or vans NSWMA estimates that the industry is losing between $8-10 million in revenue annually because of cardboard theft. At the current rate, this translates to 80,000-100,000 tons of cardboard. One medium-sized, family-owned hauler estimates it lost nearly 20 tons of cardboard from a single cardboard route in just one week earlier this month. In this highly regulated industry, New York city is the only jurisdiction in the country with a rate cap on what we can charge, thus, the revenue associated with cardboard is often the difference between losing money and breaking even in a particular month.

NSWMA and its members have been reporting examples of cardboard theft to the Business Integrity Commission (BIC) for many years. We have provided numerous pictures, video, license plate numbers and other information to the BIC. We have discussed this problem at numerous BIC Trade Waste Advisory Board meetings and with numerous BIC Commissioners. Due to limited resources, , however, this has not translated into tough enforcement action on the streets that the industry and BIC would like to see . Even when the BIC catches a cardboard thief, it is evidently difficult to get the district attorney’s office to press charges. the Police Department with many pressing responsibilities, does not consider cardboard theft to be an enforcement priority. Finally, when a cardboard thief is arrested and the vehicle he is using to illegally pick up cardboard is impounded, we are told that City agencies do not want to deal with a vehicle filled with cardboard.

It is not just the industry that suffers when cardboard is illegally removed from commercial establishments. The hauler’s monthly waste removal cost is based in part on the revenue we expect to collect from the cardboard, and when someone steals the cardboard, the Hauler is often forced to increase the monthly fee to the customer to make up that loss.

Although NSWMA generally supports the proposed legislation, we do have some concerns about specific provisions, which we look forward to discussing with the Committee, the Mayor’s Office and other stakeholders. For example, the requirement that haulers with contracts to remove recyclables from some, but not all, residential properties, provide reports twice each year to the Department of Sanitation with information about the weight of each type of recyclable material is unduly burdensome. Further, we urge the Council to send a strong signal to those illegally removing recyclables and taking revenue from both the Department of Sanitation and licensed haulers by having this legislation take effect immediately, not four months after it is enacted.

Finally, although the proposed legislation increases the penalties imposed against facilities located in New York City that receive recyclables from unlicensed individuals, the Administration is well aware that much of the cardboard being stolen is brought to recycling facilities outside of New York City. NSWMA urges the Administration to work with law enforcement officials and regulators in neighboring states to stop those facilities from accepting recyclables originating in New York City. NSWMA would be glad to work with City officials and others to develop a regional approach to this problem.

The daily theft of cardboard by unlicensed individuals is an epidemic, hurts small, family-owned licensed hauling companies as well as larger companies like mine, hurts our customers, and needs to be addressed by the City Council and the various enforcement agencies. Thank you. I would be glad to answer any questions.