The city's fleet of white sanitation trucks collects household garbage. But businesses small and large rely on private waste companies to take away the trash. Critics say the private trash trucks are inefficient, bad for the environment and a risk to public safety. Since 2010, 33 deaths have been pinned on the industry.
The de Blasio administration says it is time for a change and is moving forward with a plan to dramatically overhaul the private collection system.
“The way the current set-up is, this wild west system where you can have a dozen carters serving the same block of business. Makes no sense,” said Eddie Bautista, the executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “It exploits workers and the communities the garbage goes through.”
Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia is proposing to divide the city into 20 zones. There would be between three to five trash companies authorized to do business within a zone's borders.
Garcia says the change would bring about significant environmental benefits and improve safety.
“We think we will get between 60 to 70 percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled. We think we can get better recycling in the industry. And we think it will make the industry inherently safer,” Garcia said.
But the private garbage hauling industry says the city's plan is trash.
“The city's open market system should be the structure by which commercial waste is handled,” said Kendall Christiansen from New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management, an organization representing private trash hauling companies. “Improvements can be made through that system rather than blowing it up and trying to recreate something that may or may not be better.”
Christiansen says if the city limits the number of companies that can work in these geographic zones then dozens of companies could be put out of business. He also warned that businesses may find that have to pay for to dispose of their garbage.
But before anything happens with the city’s plan, the City Council is poised to vote on another piece of garbage legislation: the waste equity bill, which is meant to reduce the amount of trash hauled into North Brooklyn, the south Bronx and southeast Queens.
That vote is expected to take place next week.