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Business owners report arbitrary fees, inconsistent service, and lack of recycling
Coalition proposes solutions to fix the antiquated business model and help improve New York City’s environment
New York, October 22, 2015 – The Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition released a report this morning detailing how New York City’s small businesses face unfair prices, poor service, and inadequate recycling from the city’s private sanitation industry.
The report, “Not At Your Service,” outlines findings from a survey of 400 small business owners in more than twenty diverse neighborhoods. Surveyors heard a consistent message across the city: the system is not working and small business owners want the City to step in with reforms. “Our research found that New York City’s commercial waste sector is failing small businesses in numerous ways,” said Justin Wood, Environmental Justice Organizer at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “Unlike their larger counterparts with greater purchasing power, small businesses in New York City have little to no control over the prices they’re charged and the services they’re offered. This is bad for business and bad for a city that unnecessarily sends millions of tons of waste to landfills every year.”
The study found that small businesses are at a disadvantage because they do not get competitive bids or discounts for recycling, like large corporations do. Most small business owners are charged arbitrary prices rather than standard rates. Worse, because 68% percent of business owners do not even have a contract, they are exposed to unexpected price increases and service lapses.
“My hauler told me there would be a 20-30% increase last year, but then it doubled – and now my bill is $3,000 a month,” said Geronimo Diaz, a restaurant owner in Brooklyn. “I have a friend who has a restaurant with the same amount of business as me, and he’s paying one-quarter what I am.”
“I’m not rich by any means; I have a lot of bills and it’s paycheck to paycheck,” said Randy Martinez, a hardware store owner in Brooklyn. “They raise the prices and aren’t transparent about it. We need the City to protect small business owners and hold these sanitation companies accountable.”
While the private sanitation industry prides itself on customer service, its customers say service comes up short. Small businesses reported missed and inconsistent pickups, leaving business owners to drag trash bags back inside or face City fines. Service during specific time windows and on-demand collection are often refused to small businesses. Some immigrant small business owners told surveyors that they felt carting companies took advantage of their limited English skills to charge higher prices or skirt legal obligations.
“The old days of criminal involvement in waste are gone, but levels of intimidation remain with trash hauling, in particular towards immigrant-run small businesses,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of NYC-EJA. “We cannot let haulers get away with harassing the people who make New York great.”
Those who want to recycle are stymied by their sanitation companies. Business owners say that they do not know whether the items they separate are actually being recycled, and some have even been told by their sanitation companies to throw bottles and cans in the trash.
While the majority of residential trash and recycling in New York City are collected by the Department of Sanitation, businesses must contract with one of the city’s private sanitation companies. The industry has come under scrutiny in recent months over low recycling rates, poor working conditions, and environmental abuses.
Small businesses overwhelmingly want the City to take action to fix this industry. The report proposes reforms that would increase recycling rates, give power to small businesses to access the professional and effective services enjoyed by large businesses, and help the de Blasio administration move toward its goal of zero waste in landfills by 2030.
“The current commercial waste industry doesn’t work for the everyday New Yorker,” said Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN. “Small businesses, like workers, are gouged while landfill owners reap the profits. The City is considering comprehensive reform and ALIGN supports the City addressing small business concerns given their key role our local economy and New York City’s waste generation.”
The report can be downloaded at www.TransformDontTrashNYC.org.
About Transform Don’t Trash NYC
Transform Don’t Trash NYC is a growing coalition dedicated to transforming New York City’s commercial trash industry to reduce waste and pollution, foster clean and healthy communities for all New Yorkers, and create good jobs. For more information, please visit www.TransformDontTrashNYC.org.