New York, NY – A diverse coalition of New Yorkers rallied on the steps of City Hall, late last week, alongside members of the City Council in advance of same-day testimony at a City Council hearing on legislation to reform the private carting industry.
The Thursday rally included sanitation workers and environmental justice, safe streets, and small business advocates. Groups present included the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Transform Don’t Trash NYC Coalition, ALIGN, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Teamsters Local 813, NRDC, and Transportation Alternatives.
Council Member and Chair of the Sanitation Commission Antonio Reynoso said, “The day has come when the City Council will hear about commercial waste zoning. There is a lack of oversight. This is not about if we are going to have Commercial Waste Zones. We will. Up to 50 City Council Members have signed on. Workers in this city will finally have a voice, and the carters that don’t deserve to do business in this city [will be gone].”
The bill, Intro 1574, said Reynoso, “will authorize the City to enact a commercial waste zone system to finally transform this industry for the sake of workers, communities, and the environment. A zoned system will make routes drastically more efficient – this means improved pedestrian safety and a reduction of vehicle emissions equivalent to the removal of one in five cars off of NYC streets. Furthermore, in order to operate in one of these zones, companies must comply with stringent labor, safety, and environmental standards.” The legislation will cut commercial garbage truck traffic in the city by 60% by limiting one private sanitation company to each zone of the city. The Department of Sanitation will select waste haulers for each zone through a competitive bidding process that prioritizes fair prices for small businesses, good environmental practices, and high safety standards
In New York City, over 90 private sanitation companies handle commercial waste generated by office buildings, restaurants, and other businesses. Each garbage truck can service customers across the city – a single neighborhood may be serviced by more than 50 individual carting companies – resulting in collection routes that are long and circuitous, some with more than 1,000 stops.
“The private carting industry treats its workers like the trash they pick up,” said Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813, whose members turned out in force to show their support. “Commercial waste zones will transform this industry to protect private sanitation workers. With one carter per zone, we will be able to work safely to protect ourselves and everyone else on the street…It’s time that this happened. The industry has shown they won’t do anything unless they have to. Across the board, this is not a good, but a great, bill. For workers, [it will bring] safety, benefits, and a higher standard of living. Exclusive zones are the way to go.”
Eric Goldstein of the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council), said, “It’s a good bill both in public health and planetary health protection. [It will bring] workers’ rights, pedestrian safety, and less traffic and congestion. It will cut down on ground level and global warming pollutions.”
Bonnie and Bob Nelson, residents of Brooklyn, heard about the rally from the Transform Don’t Trash NYC Coalition, and turned out to show their support. “We’re community members who live in a commercial zone,” they said. “There’s a lot of traffic, and at night the private waste haulers are leap-frogging over each other. It’s noisy, smelly, wasteful, and dangerous.”