By Kristina Skorbach
October 2, 2013
NEW YORK—A coalition of environmental, labor, and other advocates called on the city administration to reform the way commercial waste is managed.
The Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) released a report that details problems with New York City’s commercial waste management approach. The report suggests that the city adopt a franchising system, which already proved successful in other cities, including Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles.
In a franchising system, a city issues a competitive bid to companies and awards contracts for specific areas. Waste facilities and waste management workers would be certified by the city and have to meet government standards.
“For too long, our communities have been suffering the impacts of waste in New York City and particularly the impacts of commercial waste,” Matt Ryan, executive director of ALIGN, said.
According to the report commercial waste management companies pay low wages, don’t provide benefits or proper training, and create over 2 million tons of waste that go to landfills and incinerators instead of being recycled.
“Growing up, jobs in the sanitation industry were good paying jobs with good pension plans. Now the majority of private owners pay very low wages and little in benefits. Many break the most basic health and safety regulations,” said Sean Campbell, a former garbage truck driver and current president of Teamsters Local 813 union.
Khwane Bennett, who worked in the commercial waste industry for 12 years, said that many companies paid him under the table and did not pay for overtime.
“I used to start at 8 o’clock at night and I was out there till 10 in the morning. I had to come back at 8 p.m. again, and I had a 7-day schedule. It used to kill me,” Bennett said in the report.
Diana Reyna, a City Council member for Bushwick, Brooklyn, said that 70 percent of all commercial waste comes to the 16 waste management stations in her district. Waste stations and idling garbage trucks contribute to the heightened air pollution in the area, which was linked to an increase in the number of asthma cases among the residents.
“The message must be clear, adhering to environmental regulations is not an option for the garbage industry,” she said.
The report suggests that if the city implements some of the recommendations, the amount of recycled waste could increase from approximately 40 percent to 90 percent, in addition to a range of other benefits.
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