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Two former top sanitation officials on Friday will announce their support for a citywide zoning system to govern how private waste carters operate throughout the five boroughs.

Brendan Sexton, who served as sanitation commissioner during the Koch administration, and Ron Gonen, who was former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “recycling czar,” will offer their support for commercial waste zones, a system whereby one contractor is responsible for picking up the commercial refuse for an entire sector of the city.

The city is reviewing the current system after labor and environmental advocates launched a campaign against many private carters they accuse of inefficiency, subpar recycling practices and providing unsafe working conditions. The system, critics say, allows for multiple carting companies to have contracts for the same sections of town. Often a dozen or more garbage trucks from different companies will roll through a single city block in one night.

“Cities with the most successful commercial waste management and recycling programs have a zoning system,” Gonen said in a statement to POLITICO New York. “It is a win-win for neighborhood businesses and residents as well as commuters that travel to neighborhoods around the city because it significantly reduces traffic, noise and pollution while providing businesses with more transparent pricing and competition around waste and recycling collection.”

Private carters, especially smaller operations, say the zoning system will put smaller players out of business, result in a loss of jobs, raise prices for customers and destroy free enterprise in the private waste game.

“We are currently dealing with too many unknowns,” said Ara Chekmayan, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management, a coalition of private carting companies. “However, we can say with certainty that private sanitation creates many quality jobs within NYC under a competitive regulated efficient system.”

Sexton said the zoning, or “franchise” system will reduce pollution and improve city oversight of private carters.

“A block with 10 businesses might get 10 different trucks coming by each night to pick up trash. And the truck routes begin and end in just a few New York City neighborhoods, usually those already burdened with industrial and other polluting facilities,” he wrote in a Crain’s op-ed that was scheduled to be published on Friday. “However, according to common sense and the experience of other cities, this complex problem has a realistic and viable solution: a franchise system.”

The city sanitation department is conducting a study to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of a commercial zoning plan. That report is expected out this spring.


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