Community-Based Plan for Zero Waste in NYC
The New York City Zero Waste Campaign, speaking for over 40 organizations, today released a community-based plan which outlines how the City of New York can begin to reduce the amount of waste it produces, freeing up more City funds for other uses and reducing the City’s dependence on landfilling and incineration.
Read the full report as:
With close to 8 million residents and over 12 million people
during a workday when commuters are in the City, New York City
produces enormous amounts of waste. New York has thousands of
businesses, hundreds of institutions like museums, colleges
and universities, and a large number of City, state and federal
agencies. So when NYC generates waste it is not just at home,
it is on the way to work or school, in public transportation,
while visiting government agencies, while shopping at stores
and supermarkets, or while at work or play at many of New York
Citys recreational facilities, such as parks, zoos, and
The City generates 13,000 tons per day of trash and recyclables
from the residential and institutional sectors and 9,900 tons
per day of putrescible trashfood scraps, dirty paper,
and recyclable containers– from the commercial sector.
Commercial construction and demolition debris and fill material
are generated in even larger quantities.
Since the announcement in 1997 that the Fresh Kills landfill
on Staten Island, which had previously taken all the
Citys waste, would be closed, the City has maintained
almost an exclusive focus on exporting waste out of the City
to distant landfills and incinerators as the solution to its
waste management problems. The costs of waste export to the
City are enormous and have risen 91% since 2000 so that they
are now over $100 a ton. Following the announcement of the Fresh
Kills closure, the City Council and planning committees in the
offices of each Borough President made extensive recommendations
about how the City should handle its waste. The recommendations,
while differing on details, spoke to the need for the City to
reduce or prevent waste, to recycle more, to create a larger
reuse network, and to compost organic waste. To a large extent,
these recommendations have been ignored.
Reaching for Zero: The Citizens Plan for Zero Waste seeks
to alter New York Citys current course. Reaching
for Zero proposes a plan for reducing New York Citys
waste exports to very close to zero in 20 years, through a combination
of waste prevention, reuse, recycling and composting. This plan
will not only reduce and ultimately eliminate the crushing expense
of waste exports from the City, but it will also keep dollars
spent on waste management circulating within the Citys
economy, creating industry and jobs here rather than shipping
our dollars along with our waste to out of state locations.
The Central Elements of The Citizens Plan for Zero Waste
in New York City
- Establish a zero waste goal for NYC in 2024.
- Strengthen the existing recycling program.
- Build or contract for the needed infrastructure for reuse,
recycling and composting.
- Establish viable ongoing waste prevention, reuse, and composting
programs to address parts of the waste stream that paper and
metal, glass and plastic recycling cannot.
- Change our focus from export and disposal to encompass
economic development: building industry and creating jobs
with materials that are recovered from our waste stream.
- Minimize environmental impacts and ensure that the burdens
and benefits of the zero waste system are equitably distributed.
- Achieve the following milestones of increased waste diversion
for each of three time periods: Near Term–30% diversion,
Intermediate Term–50% diversion, and Long Term–100% diversion
for all waste sectors- residential, institutional and commercial.
Recommendations to the City
This report recommends that the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg
act immediately on the following priorities:
- Pass the City Council Resolution #174 establishing a Zero
Waste Goal for New York City.
- Ensure that top level management in the City is committed
to Zero Waste and to providing adequate funding for the necessary
programs needed to reach our goals.
- Ensure that key staff have adequate authority to be able
to work across agencies and establish the necessary programs.
- Require detailed Zero Waste Program Plans to be the major
part of the 20 year Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan.
- Think economic development, while investing in and developing
zero waste programs.
- Utilize all of the Pieces of Zero– waste prevention, reuse,
recycling and composting– to achieve zero waste (or close
to it) in 2024.
- Ensure that all the necessary support programs are in place-
Economic Development, Education, Enforcement, Transportation,
Legislation and Regulation, Research and Data-gathering and