Commercial waste collection zones reduce truck traffic and greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste collection, according to a New York City study.
The city’s current open-market commercial waste system generates excess truck traffic, is highly concentrated among a few carters, has little transparency in pricing, and prevents private carting companies from achieving efficiencies that allow investments in recycling initiatives or cleaner trucks, the study found.
A commercial waste collection zone system — that divides a city into geographic zones and assign private carters to serve businesses within each zone through a competitive bidding process — means trucks travel less distance, resulting in far less overlapping truck traffic on commercial streets and highways.
Today, private carting companies’ truck trucks travel over 23 million miles annually to collect more than 3 million tons per year of waste and recyclables from more than 108,000 New York City restaurants, hotels, offices, and other commercial establishments.
The study found that establishing commercial waste collection zones could reduce truck traffic associated with commercial waste collection by 49 to 68 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 to 64 percent.
The study also found that collection zones would reduce other air pollutants, including those most closely linked with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, by between 34 and 62 percent.
In addition to excess truck traffic, the current system has little transparency on how rates are established. The study found commercial customers pay on average about 30 percent less than the rate cap set by the city’s Business Integrity Commission. Meanwhile large customers pay on average 38 percent less than small businesses, which often lack pricing transparency and formal written contracts.
Other cities, including Seattle, San Jose and Los Angeles, have moved to implement commercial waste zones in recent years. In Seattle, two carters were awarded zones, and operational efficiencies led to a decrease in customer rates of about 8 percent. San Jose’s implemented a citywide commercial waste franchise with two hauling and disposal vendors in 2012. In the California city, 58 percent of customers saw their rates decrease, while 42 percent of customers saw rates increase. Los Angeles, still transitioning to franchising, has found rates were lower on average in municipalities with exclusive or non-exclusive commercial waste franchises than in the city of Los Angeles’ open market system.
Following the New York City study, the Department of Sanitation and Business Integrity Commission will now, over the next two years, work with businesses, the private carting industry, nonprofits and other stakeholders to develop an implementation plan for commercial waste reform. The city says the plan will layout a framework for establishing commercial waste collection zones that will improve customer service standards, achieve the city’s environmental goals, set standards for worker safety, and allow for new investments in recycling infrastructure and cleaner trucks.