Commercial Waste Zones – Passed!

For years, NYC has been operating with a private waste carting system that many have likened to the Wild West. While garbage, recycling, and compost is picked up from private residences by the NYC Department of Sanitation, commercial enterprises are required to hire their own sanitation services.

On October 30, 2019, the City Council passed Intro 1574, which transitions the city’s private waste industry to 20 commercial waste zones. Under the system that has existed up until now, companies may hire any private waste carter but the new legislation limits the number of companies servicing a “zone” to three providers. Because there will be a limited number of companies able to operate in the space, contracts will be awarded only to those companies which meet certain worker health and safety regulations. 

A broad range of labor, environmental, and community groups have worked for years with Council Member Antonio Reynoso to push for a new system and supporters and laud the changes for improvements in worker and pedestrian safety. There are numerous dangerous practices that are common in the private waste industry. Because carters many only service a few businesses in a neighborhood, a truck may be required to travel through multiple boroughs in one trip to fulfill their contracts. This has led to workers racing to complete lengthy routes, becoming a public safety hazard.  

Many companies also do not provide adequate equipment, training, time-off, or pay. In fact, the deaths of more than 20 workers, pedestrians, and cyclists have been attributed to private carter operations since 2010. For a look into the private carting industry, check out ProPublica’s excellent exposé.

The new plan will also deliver significant environmental benefits. Lengthy routes mean many miles traveled per night with resulting emissions. It also means that many companies may travel the same streets, each performing a limited number of pickups: currently, as many as 50 private sanitation trucks may pass through a block up to 400 times per night. Consolidated routes would meaningfully decrease truck traffic and associated emissions.

Changes will go into effect in 2021.