Vision 3 Goal

Zero Waste

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The City is committed to becoming a worldwide leader in solid waste management by achieving the goal of Zero Waste by 2030, eliminating the need to send waste to out-of-state landfills and minimizing the overall environmental impact of the city’s trash. In 2015 the City set the ambitious target of reducing the amount of waste disposed of by 90 percent by 2030 from a 2005 baseline—and has already taken big steps to get there.

IndicatorReduce volume of DSNY-collected refuse (excluding material collected for reuse/recycling) by 90 percent relative to 2005 baseline of ~3.6M tonsIncrease curbside and containerized diversion from a rate of 15.4 percent in 2014
Latest Data3,213,400
tons in 2017
Previous Data3,196,200
tons in 2016

Expanded organics collection to serve more than 3.3 million residents—the largest program of its kind in the country

Organic waste—food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard waste—accounts for about one-third of everything New Yorkers throw away. When sent to landfills, it decomposes and generates methane gas, a greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere. Instead, New York City is turning organic waste into compost for rebuilding the City’s soils and into clean energy to heat homes and generate power.

Since the original launch of the program as a pilot for 3,200 residents in spring 2013, the City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has distributed thousands of brown bins to single-family and small multi-family residences and now provides curbside organics collection to more than 3.3 million city residents. Apartment buildings in Manhattan and the southern portions of the Bronx may apply to participate. In 2018, DSNY will expand curbside collection service to the remaining 17 community districts in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

For those residents who do not yet have access to curbside collection or whose buildings have chosen not to participate, DSNY funds and manages residential food scrap drop-off sites throughout all five boroughs at commuter hubs, farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) pickup sites, libraries, and in other high traffic areas. The number of drop-off sites has grown from 34 sites in April 2015 to 98 sites in 2018.

Studied the benefits of zoned waste collection

Waste and recyclables from restaurants, stores, office buildings, and other commercial establishments are collected by approximately 90 private waste haulers. These haulers often have long, overlapping routes that create unnecessary truck traffic, promote unsafe work practices, and discourage proper recycling practices.

In 2016, the Department of Sanitation and the Business Integrity Commission released a study of the potential benefits of a zoned collection system, where certain haulers would bid on the rights to collect within a certain geographic zone. The study showed that creating commercial waste collection zones would reduce truck traffic associated with waste collection by 49 to 68 percent and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions by 42 to 64 percent.

Today, the City is developing an implementation plan for commercial waste zones with the goal of creating a safe, efficient system with high quality, low cost service that sets the City’s commercial sector on a path to achieve its zero waste goals. To date, the project team has met with more than 100 stakeholders representing businesses, haulers, labor organizations, advocates, and trade organizations to inform this plan, which will be released this summer.

Released study showing New Yorkers are producing less waste at home than ever before

In April 2018 the City released its fourth waste characterization study—the 2017 NYC Residential, School, and NYCHA Waste Characterization Study. Cities conduct periodic waste characterization studies to assess changes in the composition of discarded material and to inform development of waste management programs and services like recycling, composting, and reuse. These studies involve collecting and sorting samples of waste to create statistically representative and generalizable information about the content of a city’s waste stream.

Waste characterization studies also provide broader insight into the evolving waste stream by documenting consumer consumption patterns and the design of discarded products which influence what can and cannot be diverted. Furthermore, they can reveal the success of waste management policies and programs by measuring the reduction of targeted components of the waste stream. DSNY has conducted waste characterization studies in NYC in 1990, 2005, 2013, and 2017.

The 2017 Study found that New Yorkers are producing less waste at home than ever before. In 2005, residential curbside collections totaled almost 3.5 million tons per year, 2.8 million of which were disposed as refuse. In 2017, residential collections were down to less than 3.1 million tons per year, with 2.5 million tons disposed as refuse. This took place even as the city’s population grew from 8.2 to over 8.5 million inhabitants. The 2017 Study also found that about a third of everything New Yorkers discard consists of NYC-designated paper, metal, glass, and plastic recyclables. Another third of all discards is made up of organic materials suitable for composting, representing the biggest opportunity for New Yorkers to divert waste from landfills. While the 2017 Study shows that the City’s efforts to help New Yorkers reduce, reuse, and recycle are working, it also shows us that there is more progress to make as the City works to meet its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030.

Diverted more than 15 million pounds of electronic waste for recycling since 2015

The e-cycleNYC program has offered residents of apartment buildings with ten or more units convenient, in-building collection of electronic waste since 2013. Since April 2015, DSNY has dramatically expanded the program, with 11,555 new buildings on board and 3,800 tons of electronic waste collected. In addition to the growth in the e-cycleNYC program, DSNY launched a successful pilot of curbside electronic waste collection in Staten Island that diverted nearly 1 million pounds of e-waste in the first year. The program was expanded in North Brooklyn in fall 2017 and will be available in the rest of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx by the end of 2019. Together, the City’s electronic waste recycling programs have diverted more than 15 million pounds of unwanted electronics for recycling.

Brought recycling to all public housing residents

In February 2015, NYCHA launched a comprehensive recycling implementation plan called NYCHA Recycles! Since then, staff have worked with residents and partners like DSNY, GrowNYC, Green City Force, and NYC Service to bring regular recycling services and educational programs to more than 400,000 residents at all NYCHA developments.

In December 2016, NYCHA achieved a major milestone in increasing access to recycling at every single development. More than 1,500 recycling bins were installed to complete Phase 1 of the recycling rollout, and more than 1,400 NYCHA employees, including development staff, were trained on recycling procedures. DSNY also collaborated with GrowNYC to create a new and exciting program for NYCHA residents: Environmental Ambassadors. As ambassadors, residents became volunteer community experts on recycling and continue to engage their neighbors to improve participation rates. DSNY and NYCHA are now focused on tenant engagement and education.

In 2017, the City took steps to improve participation among NYCHA residents in the recycling program. DSNY began a study of voluntary incentive programs to encourage participation among public housing residents in partnership with City Council and other stakeholders. DSNY is also collaborating with NYCHA and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer on an NYCx Challenge to reduce waste and litter in Brownsville’s public housing. In 2018, NYCHA will be releasing the agency’s first ever comprehensive solid waste management plan, outlining additional efforts to divert waste from landfills and pilot new technologies to better serve residents.