- A new study shows that New York City’s commercial recycling rate is 19%—sharply contrasting to the national average of 34%, and down 10 points from New York’s 29% rate in 2004.
- The study from Transform Don’t Trash found inefficiencies related to the performance of private companies, which drive about 12 miles for each ton of waste collected compared to the city’s 4 miles for that volume. Private haulers operate about 4,200 trucks around the city six nights a week, which Kirsti Barnes of the Alliance for a Greater New York says is "out of control," as reported in the New York Daily News.
- The report revealed one of the biggest trash collectors in the city, Mr. T Carting, only recycles 11% of what it hauls. Other sanitation workers reported to the New York Daily News that it's an "open, dirty secret" that many companies don't recycle.
Many activists in New York City have pushed for trash collection zones for years, arguing that it would improve the city's dismal recycling rates, especially in its commercial districts. And this is quite doable, at least according to one study showing that almost 90% of that waste is recyclable.
Just a few weeks ago, two former City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) officials publicly called for a citywide zoning system. Proponents say it would cut traffic, noise, and pollution and encourage healthy competition at a time when not even the largest private haulers are doing much to recycle as exemplified by report disclosures.
However the NYC Chapter of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) opposes zoning, arguing prices would increase, smaller businesses could not compete, and it would eliminate free market competition altogether.
Meanwhile, the trash and recycling problem is ongoing. Former sanitation worker Ernie Waight told the New York Daily News that improper recycling has existed for at least 25 years. Study researcher Justin Wood attributes the poor service to a lack of incentives for industry to improve their operations.
"While we don’t have control over private waste haulers, we know the commercial sector can and wants to do better — and that’s why the city has been actively working to gain the regulatory tools to achieve these goals," said a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, as reported in The New York Daily News.
Meanwhile, the clock ticks; Mayor de Blasio has pledged 90% diversion from landfill by 2030, at least for residential waste.