The de Blasio administration has pledged that by 2030, none of the city’s trash will find its way to a landfill or incinerator.
It’s a daunting task — New York City’s homes, businesses and public institutions generate roughly 20,000 tons of waste daily. The city’s Department of Sanitation has struggled for years to achieve a 20% recycling rate for residential trash; our private sector is doing somewhat better but reliable data is hard to find.
As incredible as the Mayor’s “zero waste” pledge sounds, his sustainability team has been chipping away at the goal — through expanding the use of residential composting, finding ways to turn organic waste into energy, increasing recycling options for electronic waste, etc.
The latest effort, the City’s Zero Waste Challenge, ended last week. Thirty-one private businesses attempted to see how much they could recycle or otherwise re-use their waste between February and June 2016.
The results are intriguing. Two companies were able to divert almost 100 percent of their trash from the waste stream. Half of the companies were able to divert at least 75 percent of their waste; and the other half removed at least fifty percent.
Why Composting Matters
How were these diversion rates achieved? Much of it involved composting organic material.
According to the Mayor’s Office, the participants in the challenge collectively diverted 36,910 tons of trash that would otherwise have been sent to landfills or incinerators. Two-thirds (24,500 tons) of that waste was composted.
Another 322 tons — all food — was donated.
The greatest overall waste diversion rate (across all participants) was achieved by produce distributors D’Arrigo Brothers of New York (95%) and the Durst Organization’s property at 201 East 42nd Street (95%).
Durst also achieved a 90% diversion rate at 205 East 42nd Street.
As part of their effort, D’Arrigo Brothers donated 172 tons of food to local charities and hunger relief organizations.
Getting organic material — food, yard waste, etc. — out of the waste stream has become paramount for the de Blasio administration. An estimated one-third of the city’s trash is actually organic material.
The Mayor’s Office said in a statement that the “best new program inspired by the Zero Waste Challenge” was the Starrett-Lehigh Building’s new organics collection program, which is free to all tenants and administered by RXR Realty.
Participants in the Zero Waste Challenge
Check out the greatest overall waste diversion rate achieved by type of business:
Arenas: Citi Field – 57%
Commercial tenants and building owners: Durst Organization, 201 E. 42nd Street – 95%
Food wholesalers, grocers and caterers: D’Arrigo Bros. of New York – 95%
Hotels: The Peninsula New York (66%) & Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island (66%)
Office tenants: Viacom – 87%
Restaurants/Caterers: Dig Inn Seasonal Market – 88%
TV production: Madam Secretary – 87%
Companies who achieved a 75% or more waste diversion rate:
Dig Inn Seasonal Market, 509 Manida St
Durst Organization, 1 Bryant Park
Durst Organization, 114 W 47th Street
Durst Organization, 733 3rd Avenue
Natural Resource Defense Council
Sweetgreen, Columbia University
Companies who achieved a 50% or more waste diversion rate:
Disney ABC Television Group
Durst Organization, 1133 Avenue of Americas
Durst Organization, 4 Times Square
Durst Organization, 655 3rd Avenue
Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island
Momofuku Milk Bar
Peninsula New York
The Pierre New York
USEPA, Region 2 Office
Whole Foods Market, Upper East Side
Whole Foods Market, Chelsea
Photo credit: Budd Williams/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images