NYC releases plan for commercial waste zones

NYC releases plan for commercial waste zones

DSNY's three-year plan will designate carters for zones through competitive process.


The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has released its “Commercial Waste Zones: A Plan to Reform, Reroute, and Revitalize Private Carting in New York City.” The plan lays out a blueprint for the implementation of commercial waste collection zones across NYC over the next three years.

While DSNY collects trash and recycling from residential buildings, more than 90 different private carters crisscross the city each night to service the city’s 100,000 commercial businesses, driving long, overlapping and unsafe routes, says DSNY. Just last week, the New York Police Department, working with Business Integrity Commission (BIC), began a major enforcement effort against an industry that has been involved in dozens of fatalities in recent years and yielded more than 500 moving violations in one week. DSNY says this plan, created through extensive stakeholder engagement, will bring comprehensive reform to the commercial waste industry. The plan and appendices are available at

“The city’s current commercial waste carting system has proven itself to be inefficient, unsafe and unsustainable,” Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia says in a news release. “The Commercial Waste Zones plan is a comprehensive blueprint to create a safe and efficient collection system for commercial waste that provides high quality, low cost service while advancing our zero waste goals. It is a plan that will lead to a fairer, safer, more sustainable New York City.”

“This plan sets forth the essential elements for the design of a commercial waste zone system tailored to New York City and will strengthen the city’s tools for safety oversight in the private carting industry. The plan reflects a collaborative process with input from a variety of stakeholders including the private carting industry, advocates and the business community, among others,” Commissioner of the Business Integrity Commission Daniel Brownell says. “With the release of this plan, the city is one step closer to bringing improvements to the private carting industry. We would like to thank DSNY for spearheading this key initiative to help meet the mayor’s zero waste goals.”

The plan will divide the city into 20 zones, each served by three to five carters selected through a competitive process. DSNY says this approach will reduce truck traffic associated with commercial waste collection by more than 60 percent, or more than 18 million miles per year, while strengthening service standards and allowing for customer choice. In addition, commercial waste zones will create a new regulatory framework that puts the city within reach of several additional program goals:

  • Zero Waste: Reduce commercial waste disposal and incentivize recycling
  • Environmental Health: Reduce truck traffic throughout the city to reduce air pollution and improve quality of life
  • Pricing: Provide fair, transparent pricing with low prices for businesses
  • Customer Service: Strengthen customer service standards and establish accountability
  • Health and Safety: Improve training and safety standards to make the industry safer for workers and the public
  • Labor and Worker Rights: Improve industry labor standards and uphold worker rights
  • Infrastructure and Waste Management: Prioritize investments in clean, modern fleets and facilities that make up a reliable, resilient, and sustainable waste management system
  • Robust, Competitive Industry: Create a system that works for carters of all sizes and prevents overreliance on any single company

In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio released One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City (OneNYC). Among the initiatives, OneNYC committed to conducting a comprehensive study of commercial waste zones. That study, completed by DSNY in 2016 in partnership with the Business Improvement Commission, found that commercial waste collection zones would reduce truck traffic by up to 68 percent and cut greenhouse gas and other air pollutant emissions from commercial waste collection by as much as two-thirds. The Commercial Waste Zones plan builds on the earlier study and provides the city’s recommended framework to move forward with the reforms.

Over the next few years, the city says it will work to implement the Commercial Waste Zones plan. Steps will include completing an environmental review, working with city council to pass needed legislation, selecting carters through a request for proposal process and transitioning customers in a multi-year process.

“Having hundreds of private carrier trucks pollute the air as they drive all over the city every day isn’t just inefficient; it’s not safe and not how we demonstrate stewardship of our shared city and planet,” says Mark Chambers, the director of the NYC mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “New York City needs to reinvent our approach to commercial waste, and Commissioner Garcia’s Commercial Waste Zones plan provides the leadership we need to create a cleaner, safer city for every New Yorker.”

Currently, a typical route carries a single carter through multiple boroughs to collect material all throughout the city. This contributes to unnecessarily long routes and excess truck traffic, noise and air pollution throughout the city. The current system hinders progress on safety, recycling, fleet and infrastructure investment, and price transparency, DSNY says.

With the Commercial Waste Zones plan in effect, a carter must work only within the geographical boundaries of a district. This will result in 18 million miles of truck traffic taken off city streets every year, a 63 percent reduction from current practice.

Among other requirements, the Commercial Waste Zones plan will:

  • Provide recycling collection and offer organics collection to every refuse customer and demonstrate proper disposal of materials.
  • Require carters to submit a zero-waste plan and offer recycling and organics collection at a discounted rate.
  • Require full compliance with Local Law 145 of 2013 and upgrade fleet or retrofit as needed.
  • Provide transparent pricing that incentivizes cost control and allow customers to negotiate below rate cap.
  • Include backup procedures for carter’s failure to perform.
  • Allow broker bidding, subcontracting and partnering permitted in circumstances that align with program goals.
  • Give customers multiple service options and allow them to switch carters if their needs are not being met.
  • Require carters meet employee safety training requirements and have their safety record evaluated in their solicitation review.
  • Require carters submit collective bargaining agreements and demonstrate a history of compliance with labor laws.