NYC says the hard work of reaching 'zero waste' by 2030 is just beginning

By Cole Rosengren, Waste Dive.

New York City has been making measurable progress in recent years, but without significant buy-in from the public and local legislators, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) recognizes that achieving "zero waste" by 2030 will be a tall order.

"We are on track but I’m going to need some help, folks," said DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia during a Sept. 18 hearing of the City Council's sanitation committee. "There are going to be some big controversial projects that are going to come up in the future."

According to newly released data from FY17, the city's residential diversion rate was 17.4% and total diversion for DSNY-managed material was 20.5%. Exact data on the city's commercial diversion rate is often disputed, though some estimates put it in the low 20% range.

A potential "save-as-you-throw" program and commercial waste franchise zones were repeatedly mentioned as the biggest game changers during the multi-hour hearing on New York's "zero waste" progress. New strategies for engaging residents, such as publicizing district-level diversion rankings were also discussed. Council members repeatedly asked for more transparency on this publicly available data, though were hesitant about comparing neighborhoods.