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Overview

New York City creates roughly 35,000 tons of garbage every day. Several communities in New York City (most notably North Brooklyn, the South Bronx, Sunset Park and SE Queens) are ringed by heavy manufacturing zones along their waterfronts or have mixed-use zones within their borders. These areas have become saturated with privately owned and operated waste transfer stations that handle commercial waste from the city’s hotels, offices and restaurants. The transfer stations, where waste is shifted from collection vehicles to long haul trucks, bring thousands of heavy diesel trucks through these communities each day, communities with some of the highest asthma rates in the country. Since the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill (which re-routed most of NYC’s residential waste to these same communities), over 75% of the City’s entire solid waste stream is now processed in a handful of EJ communities throughout the City.

NYC-EJA leads several efforts for comprehensive policy reforms to address this disproportionate burdening of solid waste:

Transform Don’t Trash: Reforming Commercial Waste

In October 2013, the Transform Don’t Trash NYC (TDT-NYC) coalition officially debuted, launching our campaign and releasing a report that outlined how the commercial waste industry is highly polluting, inefficient, costly to the City, disproportionately burdensome on low-income communities and communities of color, and dangerous and exploitative for workers. TDT-NYC marks the first time that a broad-based labor, environmental justice and community coalition has united around recommendations to improve commercial solid waste management in New York City. The partnership between environmental justice advocates and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 16 and Locals 813 & 831, NYC Central Labor Council, and SEIU 32BJ (as well as our allies NY Lawyers for the Public Interest, ALIGN, and American Lung Association of NY) signals a quantum shift in the City’s solid waste debate.

Waste Cap (Intro 157)

Full implementation of the SWMP must include a strategy for reducing the actual garbage handled in overburdened communities in order to ensure borough equity. Passing the “Trash Cap” (Intro 157) bill in NYC Council will provide long overdue relief for communities that handle a disproportionate amount of the City’s waste. It will also ensure that no other community is mistreated like this in the future: provisions will not allow the City to issue new permit capacity in any Community District with more than 5% of the City’s waste permit capacity.

Marine Transfer Stations

NYC-EJA continues to fight for full implementation of the SWMP, including the construction of the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station, a contentious and long drawn-out process. Wealthy Upper East Side real estate interests are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund opposition to the E. 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS). Despite this, construction is underway, promising the beginning of waste equity among the boroughs.

“Waste-To-Energy” Incineration

In 2012, when the Bloomberg Administration issued an RFP for “waste-to-energy” incineration, NYC-EJA, our members and allies, launched an advocacy campaign to educate government officials, the media and general public, about the risks associated with these polluting technologies — which can also undermine waste reduction and recycling initiatives. The Bloomberg Administration ultimately abandoned the proposal.

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Accomplishments

  • Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP): Long championed by NYC-EJA and sister coalition OWN, the 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan (or SWMP) adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council in 2006 was an innovative plan that relied for the first time on principles of environmental justice and borough equity. At its heart, the SWMP is a sweeping overhaul of the City’s waste export system that substitutes a polluting truck-based system confined to a handful of overburdened communities to a water-based, less polluting barge system that relies on a network of equitably sited, City-owned marine and rail transfer stations.
  • Clean Carting Trucks Bill: At the invitation of the City Council, NYC-EJA provided advice for the Clean Carting Trucks Bill,Intro. 1160A: Over 8,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks – accounting for 20% of all particulate mater (PM) generated by heavy duty trucks in NYC – collect millions of tons of commercial waste annually. Adopted by the City Council on December 19th 2013, Intro 1160A seeks to ensure that by 2020, all licensed waste haulers use only trucks that meet the U.S. EPA´s 2007 emissions standards for diesel trucks, or are fitted with the best available retrofit technology.
  • Waste Transfer Station Sitings: Over the years, NYC-EJA’s efforts with NYLPI & OWN defeated the siting of several regional mega-waste transfer stations proposed for Red Hook, Williamsburg and the South Bronx, and inspired passage of several laws, including the implementation of Local Law 40 (siting regulations for waste transfer stations) and new operational regulations for transfer stations. As a result, our campaign altered an essential City service and the largest waste management system of any U.S. city.

Natural Resources Defense Council: NYC Council Must Restore Funds for Community Composting (06/27/2020)
NY Daily News: Compost more, New York City (06/14/2020)
Queens Chronicle: Jamaica march backs trash zone legislation (09/12/2019)
NY Daily News: Report trashes city’s 21% recycling rate (06/28/2018)
Southeast Queens Press: Waste Equity Activists Rally At Miller’s Office (05/04/2018)
City & State: Kicking the bag down the road (04/16/2018)
News 12 Brooklyn: New map shows toxic spill areas in Brooklyn (04/03/2015)
NY Environment: The Bronx is Breathing (02/20/2015)
Wall Street Journal: Thompson, Quinn Recycle Trash Fight (05/31/2013)