City moves to implement commercial waste zones

The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) last month released a plan for the implementation of commercial waste collection zones across New York City over the next three years. 

While DSNY collects trash and recycling from residential buildings, more than 90 different private carters crisscross the city each night to service the city’s 100,000 commercial businesses. 

The commercial waste collection industry has been involved in dozens of fatalities in recent years, and yielded more than 500 moving violations in one week. 

“The city’s current commercial waste carting system has proven itself to be inefficient, unsafe and unsustainable,” said DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “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.”

The plan will divide the city into 20 zones, each served by three to five carters selected through a competitive process. The city argues the approach will reduce truck traffic associated with commercial waste collection by more than 60 percent, while strengthening service standards and allowing for customer choice.

Over the next few years, the city will work to implement a plan to select carters via an RFP process and a multi-year customer transition process.

But a coalition of businesses is strongly opposed to the city’s plan, arguing it would harm bodegas, food markets, stores, and office buildings by eliminating the choice, competition and customer service that exists under the city’s current open market system. 

They cited a similar zone-based plan that was implemented last year in Los Angeles, saying it created chaos and was met with negative feedback, as waste collection prices doubled, tripled or even quadrupled and service complaints numbered in the tens of thousands.

Instead, the businesses support a plan proposed by Councilman Robert Cornegy that would strengthen the city’s Business Integrity Commission and expand its regulatory power, giving it new tools to raise safety and environmental standards.

“Small business owners continue to oppose Mayor de Blasio’s zone plan because we believe the city can improve safety in commercial waste carting without pushing thousands of small businesses further to the brink of closure,” said Nelson Eusebio, board member of the National Supermarket Association.

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