The Real Estate Board of New York to The City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management on Commercial Waste Zones and Composting Facilities

Ryan Monell

Vice President of Government Affairs

June 2, 2024

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We appreciate the opportunity to testify on Commercial Waste Zones and Composting Facilities.

Oversight: Commercial Waste Zones (CWZs)

REBNY has long been engaged with the City Council and Mayoral Administration in the development of the CWZ program. It is vitally important to our members that the transition to a new way of handling commercial waste is seamless and that property owners receive a high level of service. Further, the success of this rollout is critical if the City is to accomplish its goal of being a clean welcoming place for people to live, work, and visit.

As the change to CWZs is so significant, we applaud the Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) decision to roll out the program in a controlled manner. Beginning in a single district that contains many different urban landscapes is commendable as it will give time to work through any unforeseen situations before being rolled out more widely.

Bill: Intro 352-2024

Subject: This legislation would establish a “commercial waste zone working group” made up of agency staff, a Council Member, waste carters, and City Council Speaker appointees, which would include waste industry union representatives, environmental experts, environmental justice experts, and a micro-hauling representative.

Sponsors: Sandy Nurse, Lincoln Restler, Crystal Hudson, Alexa Avilés

REBNY appreciates the intent of this legislation, and we agree that additional oversight from stakeholders will be important for DSNY to receive critical feedback on how the CWZ program is working. However, the make-up of the working group leaves out major stakeholders who will be the most impacted by the new approach to handling commercial waste. Specifically, building owners/managers and business representatives must have significant representation on the working group. As the primary customers of the commercial waste industry, these actors will play a major role in the success or failure of the CWZ program. Building owners/managers and business representatives need to be as well represented on this working group as any other group of stakeholders.

Bill: Intro 696-2024

Subject: This bill would require DSNY to establish at least one major composting facility in each Borough of the City and lays out a schedule for identifying existing facilities or establishing new ones for each Borough. These City owned and operated facilities would receive uncontaminated biodegradable waste that can be converted into compost. The bill sets forth a number of actions the City needs to take while siting these facilities.

Sponsors: Sandy Nurse, James F. Gennaro, Shahana K. Hanif, Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera, Lynn C. Schulman, Christopher Marte, Tiffany Cabán, Jennifer Gutiérrez, Shaun Abreu, Farah N. Louis, Alexa Avilés, Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Yusef Salaam, Pierina Ana Sanchez, Nantasha M. Williams, Chris Banks, Lincoln Restler

REBNY appreciates the intent of this legislation. Finding better and more environmentally-friendly ways of handling food and yard waste could be a very important way of reducing how much waste goes to landfills and incinerators, and it can in theory produce a very useful product, compost, a fertilizer that can improve soil and plant health. As the City expands its organics collection requirements, building owners want confidence that once the organic waste leaves their building it does not wind up in a landfill.

Currently, one barrier to doing so is a lack of capacity for composting in an urban environment such as New York City and the surrounding area. However, accomplishing the goals of this bill will be an ambitious and costly task, particularly given the historic challenges of siting waste facilities in the city and the capital expense of building new state-of-the-art facilities. As such, it is prudent to provide flexibility for City agencies so that they can achieve the goals in a reasonable rather than rushed manner.

Finding capacity to manage the significant amounts of organic waste generated in the city is an important policy issue and REBNY looks forward to working with the City Council to try to find solutions to this problem.

Bill: T2024-2064

Subject: This bill would prevent mergers of commercial waste haulers where one company would have contracts to handle commercial waste in more than 15 CWZs.

Sponsors: Shaun Abreu

Throughout the process that led to the establishment of the CWZ program, REBNY insisted that the best way to ensure the success of any new system was to maintain competition in the carting industry by allowing owners to choose from several different haulers. However, rather than prevent carting companies from merging, we believe a more prudent approach would be to require DSNY to add an additional carter to any zone should such a merger occur or require that the merged entity subcontract its operations.