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New Yorkers Cheer Signing of Commercial Sanitation Reform Bill

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Commercial Waste Zones Law today at a ceremony in Brooklyn. The law will overhaul how trash is collected from businesses across the city, improving safety, cutting pollution, protecting workers, and establishing fair prices for businesses. The Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, which has pushed for the policy since 2013, cheered the bill signing.

The commercial waste industry is rife with dangerous practices. Over 90 private carting companies crisscross the city each night in long, overlapping routes that overtax workers and pollute local air. Private carters are responsible for over two dozen fatal crashes since 2010.

Under the new law, the Department of Sanitation will select, through a competitive bid, no more than three carters to collect trash in each commercial zone of the city. Zoned collection will cut private garbage truck traffic by more than half. In choosing waste haulers for each zone, the city will weigh companies’ past compliance with regulations and their proposals to improve safety, reduce waste, and transition to zero-emission trucks.

Sanitation companies will be required to provide every worker with extensive safety training. A rate floor will prevent companies from financing irresponsibly low fees by underpaying workers. Carters will also be required to dump their waste only at facilities that meet safety and health standards.

Every business in the city will be entitled to recycling and composting services, under the policy. Private carters will bid one maximum rate for every business in the zone, ending the practices of small businesses being charged, on average, 38% more than large businesses.

Now that the legislation has been signed into law, the Department of Sanitation is expected to issue a Request for Proposals for waste haulers next year.

“Make no mistake: the unique coalition of labor, community, and environmental justice groups we built to pass this bill will transform the commercial waste industry from a race-to-the bottom model to one with strong labor, environmental, and safety standards,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN. “We proved that we can be bold and unafraid of making changes that address our climate crisis while creating good jobs in an industry that once was invisible to some. We thank Mayor de Blasio and the City Council for enacting this new law, and we look forward to working together on the implementation of this legislation, ensuring that it meets our progressive vision for the future of New York City.”

“As a commercial waste zone system becomes the law, New York City is taking a transformative step to reduce climate emissions, improve air quality in overburdened neighborhoods, incentivize recycling and composting, make our streets safer and lift up vulnerable workers,” said Rachel Spector, Environmental Justice Program Director at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We look forward to working with the City and our coalition partners in Transform Don’t Trash NYC to implement this system in a way that advances equity and creates good, green jobs.”

“Following decades of advocacy, New York City’s gross inequities in solid waste handling and trucking will be meaningfully reduced through the Commercial Waste Zones Law,” said Dr. Tok Michelle Oyewole, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “The law will finally hold responsible parties accountable for their impacts on people and the environment. We are ready for the road ahead, and will continue to work to reduce uneven burdens of the waste industry on vulnerable populations, and to more properly handle our city’s outsized footprint.”

“Private sanitation companies will no longer be able to treat their workers like trash,” said Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813. “With commercial waste zones, Mayor de Blasio, the City Council, and the Department of Sanitation are bringing oversight to this industry so that safety will be put ahead of profits. I commend the sanitation workers who fought for years to make this day possible.”

“The new zoned system promises to catapult an irrational, problem-plagued waste handling system into a 21st century model of sustainability and equity,” said Eric A. Goldstein, New York City Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Neighborhoods that experienced dozens of private waste trucks racing down their streets every night will be safer, quieter and less polluted.  Private waste company workers will be treated more equitably. And businesses can expect greater transparency and accountability from carters who secure zone contracts. We thank Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, Speaker Corey Johnson, and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia for their leadership and are ready to celebrate just as soon as Mayor Bill de Blasio signs this bill into law.”

“It is my hope that this law will provide proper boundaries for carters and waste companies, proper accountability by City Sanitation, and that we who call Southeast Queens home will be able to have proper air to breathe and less toxicity to inhale as we attempt to trust the city,” said Rev. Dan Rodriguez Greater Allen Cathedral, Micah 6:8 Social Justice Advocacy.

“The private sanitation industry is a sweatshop on wheels,” said Terrence Jackson, a driver at Action Carting. “We are workers of color and many of us have done time or are undocumented. We work long hours, doing an exhausting job, and are not paid fairly. With the commercial waste zones law, the private carters will finally be held accountable. I can’t wait.”