The waste collection system used by New York City’s businesses is “inefficient, ad-hoc and chaotic” and causes direct harm to a handful of low-income communities of color, says a report released yesterday.
What’s more, the way commercial trash is handled in New York will make it difficult for the city to meet its recently adopted commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, the report claims.
New York City produces roughly 21,000 tons of solid waste every day; over half of that trash comes from private businesses.
The report released yesterday, prepared by Transform Don’t Trash NYC, a coalition of environmental justice organizations and labor unions, found that:
- New York City’s businesses generate about 5.5 million tons of waste annually—2 million tons more than previously estimated.
- Hundreds of private hauling companies collect waste from businesses nightly using “overlapping” and “inefficient” truck routes. The trash is delivered to transfer stations and recycling facilities concentrated in just a handful of communities. This waste is then transferred to long-haul trucks and taken to landfills in several states.
- The recycling rate for commercial trash is about 25 percent, “significantly worse” than the 40 percent commercial recycling rate claimed by the Bloomberg administration, and lower than the national average of 34.5 percent. The recycling rate for NYC’s major private haulers could be even lower—only 9 to 13 percent in 2014, according to reports filed by waste companies with the state.
- Emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases from landfills storing NYC residential and commercial waste have been estimated at 2.2 million tons per year, and “are probably much higher given new estimates of the amount of waste generated by the city’s business sector.”
Advocates say they will push the New York City Council to draft legislation to “bring the industry into the 21st century.”
The Council’s Sanitation Committee will hold a public oversight hearing on the commercial waste industry next week, April 29th. Representatives of the waste industry and the City will presumably also be on hand to discuss the state of commercial trash collection.