Who doesn’t love the sound of a roaring garbage truck speeding by? It’s as sweet as birdsong or an opera soubrette. Wait, what? Allow me to squeal this use of a cheap writer’s trick (to grab your attention) to a halt. In truth, a waste-hauling vehicle barreling down a road strikes dread in the nearby majority. This is not to say all these drivers are reckless. Bad apples are usually a small minority, and there are other circumstances that have caused the rate of crashes involving commercial garbage trucks to double in 2016-2018 compared to the rate of the previous two-year period. In addition, long and extended routes due to pick-up points that range the expanse of the city take their toll on drivers and the environment.
“It’s a new day for safety on our streets, whether you’re on the truck or biking next to it.”
— Mayor Bill de Blasio on signing the Waste Zones Bill
Under the current open market system, private sanitation trucks log 79,000 vehicle miles traveled within the city per day, adding up to 12 million unnecessary truck miles per year, according to NY Department of Sanitation (DSNY) estimates. The thousands of diesel trucks that complete these routes are on average three times older than DSNY’s fleet. The industry’s operations pollute our air and contribute to climate change.
“Under a zoned system, routes will be made drastically more efficient— this means improved pedestrian safety and a reduction of vehicle miles traveled of at least 50%.”
— Council Member Antonio Reynoso
“Today’s bill signing doesn’t just mark a new day for commercial waste hauling,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s a new day for New York’s Green New Deal, showing that we can create good-paying jobs while drastically reducing pollution and emissions. It’s a new day for working people – many of whom are immigrants chasing the American dream – ending the race to the bottom that has led to low labor standards and poor wages. It’s a new day for safety on our streets, whether you’re on the truck or biking next to it. And it’s a new day for New York City. I’d like to thank Council Member Reynoso and the City Council for helping us get to this day.”
Since May, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, the council’s sanitation chairperson, has been advocating for legislation that would enact waste zones, Intro 1574. This legislation was approved by the council on October 30th and was signed into law by the Mayor on November 20th.
“For decades, the private carting industry has operated with blatant disregard for the safety of workers and pedestrians and the health of our environment,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “Under a zoned system, routes will be made drastically more efficient— this means improved pedestrian safety and a reduction of vehicle miles traveled of at least 50%.”
“This day has been years in the making. Commercial waste zones will fundamentally transform an industry that is critical to our city and do so while protecting workers’ rights, improving safety for the public, and taking on the climate crisis,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia
Sean T. Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813 thanked the council’s leaders and sponsors of the bill when they passed Intro 1574, in part because, “Commercial waste zones will overhaul private sanitation to reward the good companies and force the bad companies to shape up.”