New York City Council proposes amendments to commercial waste legislation

New York City Council proposes amendments to commercial waste legislation

The legislation, which would create commercial waste zones for private haulers, is expected to be voted on Oct. 30.

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After more than six years of planning, legislation overhauling New York City’s commercial waste hauling system may come to fruition as early as this month.

The New York City Council has announced amended legislation negotiated with the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition to transform 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.

Transform Don’t Trash NYC is a coalition aiming to transform New York City’s commercial trash industry by reducing waste and pollution, fostering clean and healthy communities for all New Yorkers, and creating good jobs

“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,” says Sean Campbell, president of Teamsters Local 813, in a news release. “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.”

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

Currently, more than 90 private carting companies operate throughout the city, creating pollution and excessive truck traffic. One block can see over a hundred private garbage trucks in a single night, Transform Don’t Trash NYC says. Since 2010, more than two dozen residents have died in traffic crashes involving private sanitation trucks. Transform Don’t Trash NYC adds that media investigations have found labor abuses including wage theft, long shifts, dangerous working conditions and excessive 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. 

“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,” says Eric A. Goldstein, New York City 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.”

The Commercial Waste Zones Bill now has 25 sponsors, including lead sponsor Council Member Antonio Reynoso and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

The legislation is expected to be voted on Oct. 30.