After much anticipation, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has unveiled “Commercial Waste Zones: A Plan to Reform, Reroute, and Revitalize Private Carting in New York City,” which details a blueprint for the implementation of commercial waste collection zones across New York City over the next three years.
“The city’s current commercial waste carting system has proven itself to be inefficient, unsafe and unsustainable,” said DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a statement. “The Commercial Waste Zones plan is a comprehensive blueprint to create a safe and efficient collection system for commercial waste that provides high-quality, low-cost service while advancing our zero waste goals. It is a plan that will lead to a fairer, safer, more sustainable New York City.”
The plan will ultimately divide the city into 20 zones, each served by three to five carters selected through a competitive process. This approach, according to DSNY, will reduce truck traffic associated with commercial waste collection by more than 60 percent, or more than 18 million miles per year, while strengthening service standards and allowing for customer choice. Additionally, the commercial waste zones will help create a new regulatory framework that allows the city to achieve several additional program goals, including:
- Zero Waste: Reduce commercial waste disposal and incentivize recycling.
- Environmental Health: Reduce truck traffic throughout the city to reduce air pollution and improve quality of life.
- Pricing: Provide fair, transparent pricing with low prices for businesses.
- Customer Service: Strengthen customer service standards and establish accountability.
- Health and Safety: Improve training and safety standards to make the industry safer for workers and the public.
- Labor and Worker Rights: Improve industry labor standards and uphold worker rights.
- Infrastructure and Waste Management: Prioritize investments in clean, modern fleets and facilities that make up a reliable, resilient and sustainable waste management system.
- Robust, Competitive Industry: Create a system that works for carters of all sizes and prevents overreliance on any single company.
The plan, which has been in the works since 2016, will replace the city’s current open-market system, where more than 90 different private carters are on the streets at once servicing the city’s 100,000 commercial businesses. The open-market system, while competitive and supported by many, has been deemed unsafe by some, as drivers are working long hours and often operating on dangerous routes.
“This plan sets forth the essential elements for the design of a commercial waste zone system tailored to New York City and will strengthen the city’s tools for safety oversight in the private carting industry,” said Commissioner of the Business Integrity Commission Daniel Brownell in a statement. “The plan reflects a collaborative process with input from a variety of stakeholders including the private carting industry, advocates and the business community, among others. With the release of this plan, the city is one step closer to bringing improvements to the private carting industry. We would like to thank DSNY for spearheading this key initiative to help meet the mayor’s zero waste goals.”
To create the commercial waste zone plan, DSNY used other cities like Los Angeles as a model, conducted a study of commercial waste zones to see how such a system would work in a city like New York and involved as much stakeholder input as possible.
“The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) commends the New York City Department of Sanitation on engaging a wide range of stakeholders in developing the proposed zone design for commercial waste collection in New York City,” said David Biderman, executive director and CEO of SWANA, in a statement. “The proposal incorporates and was improved by the input of the participants, and bringing together the industry, customers, organized labor, environmental advocates and others to discuss solid waste and recycling issues from a variety of perspectives was useful. SWANA looks forward to continuing to work on this topic with the department, the industry and other stakeholders as this process moves forward, as well as on other solid waste policy issues facing New York City.”
According to Justin Bland, director of commercial waste zoning for DSNY and a 2018 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient, the department developed the system with small- and medium-sized companies in mind, as it wanted to design something that allows the existing industry to still be viable in the future.
“We have had many discussions with different types of customers, representatives, business groups, trade associations, business improvement districts, etc., and found that customers want to have some sort of choice if their carter is not living up to their agreement,” he says. “To meet that need, we decided to go with a nonexclusive franchise system. Having a few haulers in each zone gives customers a choice if they experience a bumpy transition or want to switch to another carter for any number of reasons.”
In addition to reducing truck traffic and improving safety, the plan will:
- Provide recycling collection and offer organics collection to every refuse customer and demonstrate proper disposal of materials.
- Require carters to submit a zero waste plan and offer recycling and organics collection at a discounted rate.
- Require full compliance with Local Law 145 of 2013, and upgrade fleet or retrofit as needed.
- Provide transparent pricing that incentivizes cost control and allow customers to negotiate below rate cap.
- Include backup procedures for carter’s failure to perform.
- Allow broker bidding, subcontracting and partnering permitted in circumstances that align with program goals.
- Give customers multiple service options and allow them to switch carters if their needs are not being met.
- Require carters meet employee safety training requirements and have their safety record evaluated in their solicitation review.
- Require carters submit collective bargaining agreements and demonstrate a history of compliance with labor laws.
The plan will be implemented over the next few years, and steps include completing an environmental review, working with City Council to pass needed legislation, selecting carters via a request for proposals process and a multiyear customer transition process.