New York’s Zero Waste Challenge, which was created and led by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as part of the city’s OneNYC plan to send zero waste to landfill by 2030, started in February 2016 and ended in June 2016. Thirty-one businesses, including Whole Foods, Barclays Center and ABC/Disney, participated in the challenge and worked together to divert 36,910 tons of waste from landfill and incineration by composting more than 24,500 tons of organic material and donating 322 tons of food to the city’s needy.
“In OneNYC, we made a commitment to sending zero waste to landfill by 2030,” said de Blasio in a press release. “Our Zero Waste Challenge and the participants have proven that a collected effort helps reduce unnecessary waste. Together, businesses from a variety of sectors diverted 36,910 tons of waste that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill. This challenge proves that our commitment can be achieved so long as every New Yorker does their part to create a more sustainable city. My thanks to the businesses that stepped up to the challenge.”
To successfully complete the challenge, each individual company had to divert at least 50 percent of its waste by the end of the challenge. The 31 participating companies achieved an average diversion rate of 56.5 percent by making smarter, less wasteful purchases, reducing packaging and switching to reusable goods and digital storage.
“As part of our company's Green Mission, Whole Foods Market places a large emphasis on managing waste, so participating in the mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge was a natural partnership," said Green Mission Specialist for Whole Foods Market's Northeast Region Kylie Sale in a press release. "This challenge helped us to share and to strengthen our sustainability efforts as we strive to divert even more of our waste through reusing, donating, composting and recycling."
Challenge participants were also required to donate leftover, edible food to local food collection organizations. City Harvest, Rock and Wrap it Up!, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and other organizations helped track the donations, which reached a total of 322 tons of food.
This challenge has also helped businesses prepare for the new commercial recycling rules that will require all businesses to recycle all recyclable materials and the new commercial organics law, which will require certain subsets of businesses to source separate food scraps and other organic material for beneficial use in 2017.
"This is how progress begins: a well-constructed project with many committed partners to test new ideas and approaches, and then convert them into mainstream practice," says Kendall Christiansen, manager of the New York city chapter of the National Waste & Recycling Association. "A dozen local waste industry leaders stepped up as partners with the mayor's Zero Waste Challenge, and it will be exciting to work on the next phase of making their new ideas 'stick.'"