The commercial waste industry in New York City is highly polluting, inefficient, and disproportionately impacts communities of color and workers. The vast majority of waste is transported by heavy trucks to and from waste transfer stations in a handful of low-income communities and communities of color. Many workers in the commercial sector are paid poverty wages and lack benefits and full-time, permanent jobs. Plus, New York City landfills and incinerates the majority of its commercial waste even though that waste could be recycled or composted.
New York City deserves better. By transforming the commercial waste industry, the Transform Don’t Trash NYC campaign aims to reduce pollution, foster cleaner and healthier communities for all New Yorkers. ALIGN is uniting labor, environmental justice, community and other advocates to raise accountability and standards in commercial waste that will save the City money, lift thousands of waste industry workers and their families out of poverty, and create new, quality jobs in recycling and recycling-reliant industries.
SOLUTIONS AND MOVEMENT
A zone system for commercial waste collection would utilize a competitive bidding process to select commercial haulers to service franchise zones established across the city. The franchise system would ensure high-road environmental and labor practices, halting the current race to the bottom in the private waste sector. Franchise awardees would be required to meet environmental standards that increase recycling rates, reduce truck emissions, and more equitably distribute waste handling across the city; to meet labor standards that improve the safety and quality of jobs; and to ensure the new recycling jobs that are created are good jobs. In return, franchisees would benefit from a steady, efficiently located base of customers. The franchise system would ensure accountability through reporting requirements and increased City oversight.
Due to the ongoing work of the Transform Don’t Trash campaign, this summer the Mayor’s office and Department of Sanitation announced that New York City will now begin moving to a new system of commercial waste zones. A new City study by the Department of Sanitation found that, under this system, NYC can reduce truck traffic and diesel emissions, raise recycling rates, address environmental injustice, and protect private sanitation workers.
In the coming months, the Transform Don’t Trash campaign plans push for stronger measures to recognize issues of race inequity in low-income communities of color as well as work with the city to implement the new system.