October 10, 2019

Today the New York City Council announced amended legislation negotiated with the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition to overhaul the commercial sanitation industry through commercial waste zones. The updated commercial waste zone legislation includes several new provisions to reduce pollution, protect environmental justice communities, improve jobs, and advance safety.

“Private sanitation workers and the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition fought for years to reform the commercial waste system, and today we can see light at the end of the tunnel,” said Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813. “We negotiated this framework to end the race to the bottom that holds down wages and endangers workers of color. Going forward, companies that provide good jobs will thrive and those that mistreat workers will not. The City Council needs to pass this legislation so we can finally start creating good jobs in recycling and composting that will support New York City families.”

“This commercial waste reform agreement was a generation in the making,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Environmental justice communities – neighborhoods like North Brooklyn, South Bronx, Southeast Queens, and Sunset Park long condemned to handle over 75% of NYC’s waste – have sought relief from a chaotic and unjust commercial waste system for 30 years. These communities (which many of the waste workers exploited by the current system also call home) have fought long and hard for a waste management system that is more efficient and more just. Substantial progress has been made, from the Solid Waste Management Plan to the Waste Equity law to today’s commercial waste zone agreement – none of which would have been possible without leadership from the City Council.”

“We are excited to see the commercial waste zones bill moving closer to passage,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN. “ALIGN and our Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition have fought for the last six years to ensure we have a policy that reforms the Wild West like private carting industry. This marks a major turning point for New York City after years of harming communities, workers, and the environment. We are eager to work together for this change that will finally protect our most polluted neighborhoods, ensure that sanitation workers are no longer treated like trash, that pedestrians and cyclists are safe, and that small businesses are only paying their fair share, while helping meet NYC’s 2030 zero waste goal.”

“After six years of studies, hearings, stakeholder meetings and legislative drafting, our broad-based Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition has reached conceptual agreement with the City Council leadership on legislation that, if enacted as proposed, would transform the way commercial waste is collected across every city neighborhood,” said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Thanks to Councilmember Reynoso and Speaker Johnson, this landmark bill, if enacted as proposed, will slash garbage truck traffic, cut air pollution, improve pedestrian safety and ensure fairness and respect for private waste company workers.”

“We are thrilled to be even closer to achieving the commercial waste industry reforms our city urgently needs,” said Rachel Spector, Director of Environmental Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “Our Commercial Waste Zones plan will decrease greenhouse gas emissions, relieve burdens in environmental justice communities, raise labor standards in the industry, and improve street safety. We look forward to working with Council Member Reynoso, the Speaker and DSNY to pass Intro 1574.”

The Transform Don’t Trash NYC campaign launched in 2013, calling on the city to adopt commercial waste zones and address the rampant abuses of the private carting industry.

Today, over 90 private carting companies operate throughout the city, creating needless pollution and dangerous truck traffic. One block can see over a hundred private garbage trucks in a single night, rushing to complete their routes. Since 2010, the private sanitation industry has killed over two dozen New Yorkers in traffic crashes. Private carters recycle little of what they collect, and dump most of the trash at waste transfer stations in three New York City communities of color. Media investigations have found labor abuses including wage theft, extremely long shifts, dangerous working conditions, and rampant injuries.

The legislation will create a competitive bid to assign private carters to collect waste in each commercial district, cutting private garbage truck traffic by more than half across the city. Private carters will need to meet baseline standards to be eligible for a zone, and their proposals will be judged based on their plans to improve safety, recycling, pollution, and job quality. The revised bill caps the number of private carters in any zone at three. The coalition supported the amended bill because it adds new worker protections, a rate floor, standards at waste facilities, and stronger requirements for low polluting waste trucks. The Commercial Waste Zones Bill has 25 sponsors, including lead sponsor Council Member Antonio Reynoso and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.