New York City’s commercial sector generates more waste and has a lower diversion rate than previously thought, according to an advocacy group that used Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain previously undisclosed government documents.
At 24 percent, the Big Apple’s commercial recycling rate is considerably less than the 40 percent previously touted, according to ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York. And the sector generates a total of 5.5 million tons of waste per year, 2 million tons more than city government has told the public, according to ALIGN.
“This previously undisclosed research shows that New York City has been burying far too much of its commercial waste – millions of tons each year – in landfills, while also burying the evidence of just how unsustainable, polluting and inefficient the commercial waste system is,” Gavin Kearney, director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, stated in a press release.
ALIGN’s report, entitled “Dirty, Wasteful and Unsustainable: The Case for Reforming New York City’s Commercial Waste System,” calls for major investments in MRFs and anaerobic digestion or composting facilities. It also repeats calls from a 2013 report it issued for city government to implement a system in which private haulers bid for franchise rights to serve various zones of the city.
ALIGN used a records request to obtain a 2012 study by consultants Halcrow Engineers. The study estimated haulers of commercial material drive about 12 miles to collect each ton of waste and recyclable materials. In contrast, trucks belonging to the city’s Department of Sanitation, which provides residential service, drive about four miles to collect a ton.