Environmental Justice Hevra

Transform Don’t Trash NYC

Transform Don't Trash NYC

Co-Chairs: Les Judd and Sandy Rocks

Our campaign proposes systemic changes to the commercial waste industry in New York City. For decades, commercial waste in NYC has caused problems for local communities and workers. Each year, our restaurants, offices and businesses produce over 5.5 million tons of commercial waste (excluding construction waste), which is currently picked up by over 4,000 trucks owned by over 230 individual companies. This staggering amount of waste ends up going to landfills and incinerators, rather than being recycled. Clearly, this is not an environmentally or economically sustainable system.

This year, the Environmental Justice Hevra is continuing to engage community members in conversation regarding current commercial waste conditions and how City Council legislation would have a revolutionary effect on NYC and its waste management practices. We will also explore how local initiatives such as this one can contribute to broader efforts to stem the tide of climate change. B’nai Jeshurun joins a robust coalition of environmental justice, labor, and community groups that includes the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance (NYCEJA), ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 16 & Local 813, among others.


Council Members Helen Rosenthal (right), Antonio Reynoso (middle) and Mark Levine (not pictured) were part of the event.

On Wednesday, June 22, 2016 we hosted an event called Transform Don’t Trash NYC and Next Steps, which introduced new research conducted by the coalition and educated community members on the legislation that is currently being finalized.

Listen to the full audio of the event.

Read Transform Don’t Trash NYC’s brand new report Dirty, Wasteful & Unsustainable: The urgent need to reform New York City’s commercial waste system and the NY Daily News article about the state of recycling in our City.



truckroutes_130129-FINAL1.pdfThe Impact of the Current System: The “Wild West” of Commercial Waste

  • Inefficient commercial waste collection is costly and polluting.
  • Private sector waste workers face low wages and poor working conditions. Waste work is among the most dangerous in the nation, ranked in the top ten deadliest occupations for years.
  • Landfilling and incinerating waste is costly and polluting. 90% of New York City’s commercial waste could be recycled or composted, instead all but about 24% now ends up in landfills and incinerators.
  • Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately burdened by solid waste handling.
  • Small businesses are disadvantaged by the current system. While large corporations can negotiate with carters to lower prices, small businesses often lack leverage and carters don’t publish their prices making comparison shopping difficult. Private carters often charge a flat monthly price, which is not directly linked to the amount of waste generated and doesn’t reward businesses for recycling or composting more. .

Reforming and rationalizing the commercial garbage collecting system in New York City might seem like an unlikely project for Panim el Panim. In fact, it has many implications for social, economic and environmental justice. Working with the Transform Don’t Trash NYC campaign, [the Environmental Justice Hevra’s] aim is to greatly reduce that harm by moving the City Council to pass a law that eliminates duplication, reduces pollution, and requires that workers be paid a living wage. – Gil Kulick, BJ Member

A More Sustainable City: Transform Don’t Trash NYC’s Vision:

  • A Cleaner Environment through a clean trucks program that sets vehicle emissions standards for commercial waste trucks and smart-routing thatTruck Routes Future minimizes truck miles traveled.
  • Diversion Goals that increase recycling and a requirement that private waste companies operating in the city develop and execute plans to meet it.
  • Good Jobs through labor standards that ensure livable wages and and first-rate safety training and equipment for private hauling and waste and recycling facility workers.
  • Greater Accountability through reporting requirements for private haulers and waste and recycling facilities that ensure compliance with high-road environmental and labor standards, as well as fair and transparent hauling rates and increased oversight by the City.

These goals can be achieved through a zoned collection system, an approach being utilized by cities like LA and Seattle.

What Is A Zoned Collection System?

Proposed system changes would create a zoned collection system, already successfully implemented in a few cities across the country, which would divide each of the five boroughs into hauling districts. Private companies would have to operate in a specific zone, and would have to adhere to standards around living wages, safety, truck quality, emissions/pollution, and recycling diversion. In San Jose, CA, the zone system allowed the city to implement a wet/dry recycling process, increasing recycling rates from 25 percent to 70 percent in a six-month period. An increased focus on recycling also has the potential to create new jobs and encourage much needed private investment in technology and recycling facilities.

Watch this video about the Transform Don’t Trash NYC Campaign which reflects the stories and voices of people impacted by our current commercial waste system.