The New York City Waste Prevention Coalition is a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to promoting waste prevention as the most responsible, environmentally sound and cost-effective means to solve New York City's mounting solid waste problems.

The Coalition proposes the following programs to be included in the City’s Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan Modification (2000). Overall, making these investments will provide significant cost-savings to the city in terms of reduced disposal costs. The estimates of cost-savings are very conservative and include only the savings related to transfer, transport and disposal costs, estimated at $95 per ton. The cost-savings estimates do not account for potential savings in collection, maintenance, etc.

  1. Community Based Waste Prevention Total Cost: $16.1 million

A. Community Based Waste Prevention/Recycling Coordinators Total Cost: 9.1 million

Proposal: The Department of Sanitation would contract with community-based organizations and/or community boards to fund community-based waste prevention coordinators to perform education and outreach in the City’s 59 community districts. These coordinators would serve as an accessible source of information on waste prevention and recycling to residents, businesses, and institutions in their community districts. Contracts would be let competitively to community boards and community based organizations. They may provide more than one coordinator for certain community boards, and less for others.

The coordinators primary responsibility would be to increase waste prevention in the residential sector. They would perform multiple tasks, including: developing block leader programs to help residents reduce waste and recycle properly; assessing attitudes and behavior patterns regarding waste prevention in the residential sector; promoting backyard composting and "leave it on the lawn" programs; encouraging and facilitating the reuse of common household items (e.g., furniture, electronics and clothing); and correlating efforts with other community based waste prevention projects in the area, such as reuse centers and durable repair programs. Secondary responsibilities would include: working with retailers and restaurants to implement waste prevention programs aimed at consumers (e.g., hanger take-back at dry cleaners; used battery, cell phone and carpet collection programs; discounts for consumers who bring their own bag or mug, etc.); reaching out to businesses and government institutions to help them comply with the City’s recycling, waste prevention and "buy recycled" requirements; working with schools to include waste prevention into the curriculum; facilitating waste audits; and fostering recycling and waste prevention in hospitals and other local institutions. The SWABs and/or the Borough Presidents’ Offices would have the right to approve final contract selections for the coordinators.

The estimated $9.1 million costs include:

Rationale: DOS reportedly has only six or seven full-time recycling coordinators for the entire City -- less than one per million people. At this level, outreach staff can have only a limited impact on the habits of individual households, businesses and institutions. Presently, there are no waste prevention coordinators. By working directly with residents, schools, businesses and institutions, community-based outreach coordinators would yield more significant environmental and cost-saving results by increasing waste prevention and by diverting additional recyclables from the disposal stream into the recycling program. In order to recover the $9.1 million investment, all the waste prevention/recycling coordinators combined would need to reduce roughly 3 percent of the amount of waste currently disposed of by the City, or about 121,000 tons per year.

  1. Community-Based Waste Prevention Projects Total Cost: $7 million

Proposal: Create a $7 million grant fund to finance community-based waste prevention projects, such as community reuse centers and vocational reuse programs (e.g., "Recycle a Bicycle" and computer refurbishing). The Waste Prevention Coordinators could oversee the projects, or they could be performed by other organizations.

The $7 million costs include:

One objective of the fund would be to develop reuse centers in each of the City's five boroughs to redistribute usable goods, such as appliances, electronics, clothing, materials for home repair, furniture, etc., at very low cost to the consumer.  The centers would also serve as education centers, household hazardous waste drop off sites and information clearinghouses on repair, rental and thrift stores. Each center could be launched with an initial investment of only $250,000, and ongoing support at a level of $100,000 annually. 

Another objective would be to expand the successful "Recycle a Bicycle" program to include training in repair and restoration of other types of durable products (e.g., furniture, appliances, electronics) and add a new feature, whereby students who complete the training program would be placed in summer jobs and apprenticeships in repair and restoration businesses. A $500,000 budget would fund five programs -- at one school in each borough. The budget includes: one instructor at each school ($150,000); one full-time project coordinator ($40,000); one full time outreach staff person ($55,000); $50,000 for student stipends; $150,000 for advertising (subway, print & radio ads); $35,000 for tools, manuals and supplies; and $10,000 for DOS management costs.

Rationale:  The fund enables community members to develop, plan and, with the coordinator’s assistance, implement a variety of programs to improve waste prevention and recycling in the City’s neighborhoods. Projects would be severely handicapped from the onset if each Borough were not provided with trucks to facilitate the movement of reusable materials. Similarly, an easily accessible tracking and inventory system is necessary to monitor what is requested and what is available and further enhance the efficiency of the projects.

The value of community-based waste prevention projects to the City goes far beyond the direct disposal cost savings that result.  They are tools for social and economic development.  Reuse offers great benefits to low-income people, non-profit organizations, and others operating on tight budgets who gain access to quality products and materials.  For example, NYC's Materials for the Arts reuse program has redistributed goods worth in excess of $2 million to schools and arts organizations.  Further, for a nominal cost to the City, the "Recycle a Bicycle" program has: taught skills and a marketable trade to our youth; kept otherwise useful durable products out of the waste stream, saving the City money in collection and export costs, and provided tax deductions for those who donate bicycles, and; provided the repaired bicycles, free of charge, to neighborhood nonprofit organizations and to the youth who repair them. RAB and other waste prevention programs can be designed to provide job readiness and/or job training opportunities for the City's youth and unemployed.  Jobs in reuse can range from retail, to material upgrade and refurbishing (i.e., sanding, painting, reupholstery, etc) to repair of products like electronics, bicycles, computers and other durables.


  1. Waste Prevention in City Agencies and Institutions Total Cost: $16.38 million

A. Waste Prevention in DCAS Total Cost: $1.7 million

Proposal: DOS would fund five staff positions to increase recycling and waste prevention activities within City agencies, and to increase the purchase of recycled and waste-preventing products.

The $1.7 million budget includes:

The three Environmental Purchasing Coordinators within DCAS would increase the City’s purchases of recycled-content and waste-reducing products and other environmentally preferable goods and services. These staff would promote compliance with the "Buy Recycled" requirements of Local Law 19 and with the waste prevention requirements of Mayoral Directive #96-2, "Waste Prevention and Efficient Materials Management Policies", and conduct outreach with all the City’s purchasers so that they comply as well. These staff would also ensure that the City complies with federal mandates regarding proper disposal of hazardous products (e.g., fluorescent light bulbs and batteries that contain mercury and cadmium) and purchase nonhazardous substitutes.

In addition, a Waste Prevention and Recycling Coordinator within DCAS would help City agencies comply with recycling requirements and implement cost-effective waste prevention management practices. Finally, the Deputy Director for Waste Prevention within the Mayor’s Office of Operations would coordinate all City government waste prevention activities. Under Section 6 of Mayoral Directive #96-2, the Mayor’s Office of Operations is charged with primary oversight in its implementation. This position is critical to the program as all other staff would report to the Deputy Director.

A $750,000 investment to capitalize the City Agency Reuse program is critical to enable it to be truly effective. Currently, the City operates a warehouse for reusable items in Brooklyn (the B-53 Warehouse) but it is severely underutilized. Adding drivers and trucks to the City's fleet, assigned specifically to this program, as well as creating an accessible tracking system will maximize the impacts of the City's existing program dramatically.

Currently, there is little incentive for City agencies to reduce waste, since they receive free disposal services from DOS. With a $250,000 budget the City would develop a plan to determine the costs of disposal services to City agencies, not-for-profit organizations and institutions and create incentives for waste prevention and recycling, such as shared savings for agencies that vigorously implement waste prevention programs. Such incentives would reward agencies for instituting changes in procurement and product consumption that reduce the volume of waste generated and that increase their recycling rates.

Rationale: The total cost for the five staff positions would be more than offset through savings associated with the purchase of waste-preventing products and reduced disposal costs. The DCAS FY97/98 Environmental Procurement report describes a single contract for remanufactured furniture that will save the City upwards of $600,000 if it is used. Further, if the City were to purchase retread tires instead of "new" tires, it could save up to $1 million. In addition, the City could recoup its investment by increasing its purchases of remanufactured toner cartridges, duplex printers and copiers, energy-efficient computers, water conservation devices, and other cost-saving items.

The use of the City's B-53 warehouse is limited for the following reasons. First, there is no inventory tracking system, making it is very difficult for purchasers to know what's available. Second, the City does not have trucks available to move reusables to or from the warehouse.

Therefore, to access the reusables, a purchaser must go to Brooklyn, walk through the warehouse to find (hopefully) what they need and arrange for transportation to their facility. An investment to capitalize and operationalize this program by adding trucks, drivers and an accessible inventory system would enable the City to fully utilize the existing infrastructure and reduce waste and purchasing costs.

QBUI's have proven to increase the effectiveness of agency waste prevention, recycling and energy efficiency programs. For example, the US Government Services Administration has stimulated recycling activities by allowing federal agencies to keep a portion of the proceeds from their recycling programs.

If increasing reuse and implementing QBUI’s were to result in a 10 percent reduction in City Agency waste generation, from a current total of 190,000 tons, the City would enjoy savings of approximately $1.4 million annually. Improvements in recycling diversion would further reduce disposal costs. Finally, buying recycled products would bolster markets for the City’s recyclables, increasing revenues for that program.

B. Waste Prevention Technical Assistance to Public Institutions and City Agencies Total

Cost: $1.35 million

Proposal: Develop a waste prevention technical assistance center staffed with waste audit/prevention specialists serving public institutions. The center would have 12 technical assistance providers that would perform waste audits and implement waste prevention initiatives in City Agencies, non-profits and public institutions. The waste prevention center would also serve as a clearinghouse of information on waste prevention and catalogue waste prevention strategies developed for public clients. 12 technical assistance staff would complete between 50-60 full waste audits and work with agencies to implement recommended changes.

A budget of $1.35 Million would include:

Rationale: City agencies, not-for-profit organizations, schools, and public institutions produce 190,000 tons per year of waste. Due to their centralized nature, institutions represent unique opportunities to reduce waste. Within the structure of a given institution, managers can be directed to identify ways to reduce the waste that is generated, alter purchasing patterns to support the use of more durable goods and increase recycling. One of the difficulties in identifying possible waste prevention strategies in a given institution is that no two institutions are the same, requiring individualized waste prevention strategies.

In the past, DOS has been unable to provide the necessary resources to implement waste prevention programs for individual institutions. Fortunately, environmental groups, such as the Council on the Environment of New York City, have worked with a number of public and private institutions to develop comprehensive waste prevention and recycling programs. The examples of their work, below, provide direct evidence of the value of waste prevention as a cost-saving solid waste management strategy.

A project at Lafayette High School reduced its waste by 12 percent, or 11 tons per year, by increasing double-sided copying, using remanufactured toner cartridges, using durable cafeteria trays, and increasing its recycling program. These changes resulted in a savings of $2,540 in reduced purchasing costs and $500 in revenue from the sale of recycled paper.

A 12 percent reduction in waste generation throughout the city’s school system would prevent over 14,000 tons of waste from being exported and save more than $1 million annually.

The Central Post Office in Manhattan reduced its waste by 48 tons a year by reducing delivery of shrink rap, reducing rubber band waste, using durable plastic containers rather than cardboard boxes, and switching to carbonless money orders. These efforts saved the Post Office $47,500 in purchasing costs.

C. Revolving Capital Funds for Waste Prevention Total Cost: $10 million

Proposal: Establish two capital funds of $5 million each to be used for implementation of waste prevention projects identified through waste audits. One capital fund would be for City agencies or quasi-city agencies and the other for private institutions that receive free waste collection from the City. All types of equipment would be eligible for funding, including trucks, but no buildings would be funded out of this pool of money. Proposals for award of the project funds would include: baseline waste generation and waste prevention audit, a complete list of proposed projects and anticipated savings, identification of a waste prevention coordinator, identification of a recycling coordinator, regular monitoring of the progress of recycling rates, an ongoing education program for waste prevention and recycling. Competitive award of grants would initially be based on agency and institutional commitment to the program and anticipated time for the return on investment. As projects are implemented overtime, commitment to the program will become the top priority as those projects with rapid return on investment are all completed.

There should be a Citizens Advisory Committee evaluating this information and assisting in the decisions regarding grant awards. Non-governmental institutions should pay back 50% of the funds received over several years.

Rationale: The priorities of any given agency or institution are usually related to the primary purpose for which each was created. There are always a long list of agency and institutional priorities associated with their primary purpose. Accommodating an ancillary goal like waste prevention therefore is difficult. This is particularly true given that the message about cost savings must be based on individual audits. Many agencies and institutions have benefited from energy audits and energy conservation. The similarity between such efforts and waste prevention must be sold in a major outreach campaign; that is the subject of other waste prevention recommendations. However, once agencies and institutions recognize the benefits, there must be funds available for implementation in order to overcome the natural tendency to fund immediate and primary needs first. Waste prevention projects, such as eliminating disposable food service ware, reducing paper towel use, or duplex printing, are cost-effective in the long run, but often require an initial capital investment. A capital pool to cover these expenses would enable agencies to make the critical investments to achieve waste prevention gains in the future. The pool can be self-sustaining by recouping its outlays through disposal cost savings.


D. Waste Prevention in the Health and Hospitals Corporation Total Cost: $725,000

Proposal: Establish six Waste Prevention Coordinator positions within the Health and Hospitals Corporation to oversee and implement waste preventing practices and procurement within New York City’s public hospitals. These measures would reduce the volume and toxicity of waste generated in the City’s eleven acute care facilities. Some hospitals in New York City have already implemented some of these changes on their own, but HHC has yet to officially implement such steps for their hospitals.

The $725,000 budget would include:

The waste prevention programs would build on recommendations in the Department of Sanitation’s 1992 Solid Waste Management Plan and more recently in DOS’s WasteLe$$ study. These would include but not be limited to:

Although HHC is not a member of the American Hospital Association (AHA), it would be in the City’s best interest to follow the Memorandum of Understanding AHA signed with the USEPA in 1998 to reduce hospital waste by 33% by 2005 and by 50% by 2010 as well as a complete elimination of mercury and significant reduction in other toxics by 2005. The plan should also closely monitor the progression of discussions between the USEPA and the Greater New York Hospital Association on waste reduction.

Rationale: One staff person for every two hospitals would be sufficient to oversee the implementation and management of waste prevention, especially the monitoring of efficient and environmentally sound procurement.

The New York City WasteLe$$ program evaluated the savings potential for New York City hospitals due to waste prevention and found that through switching certain disposables to reusables, improving waste segregation and implementing energy conservation projects, hospitals could realize a savings of $1,290 per patient bed per year. For a 1,000-bed hospital, savings in disposal costs alone would amount to $36,525 a year.

The $25,000/hospital capital budget would pay for any initial capital costs necessary to implement the strategies. For example, according to the WasteLe$$ Jacobi Medical Center case study, purchasing and installing air dryers in public rest rooms and staff locker rooms was estimated at less than $20,000. The anticipated savings in operating costs of air dryers over paper towel usage is estimated to be over $22,000/year, an immediate return in investment. There are few other capital costs expected.

E. Waste Prevention in Schools Total Costs: $2.6 Million in Year One, $100,000 in subsequent years

Proposal: The New York City Board of Education would eliminate the use of disposable food service trays in the cafeterias of the 201 NYC public schools that have unused dishwashers. According to the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, these 201 schools serve approximately 147,000 meals per day on disposable trays. There are both economic costs and cost savings associated with eliminating the use of disposable food service trays in the NYC public school system, as detailed below.

Estimated costs of switching to reusable trays. The first-year operating costs for this proposal would include the following expenses:

It is estimated that each kitchen would need to allocate one worker for five hours per day to operate the equipment. We assume that a staff person who is currently handling the dozens of bags of waste generated in the cafeterias (as well as the dozens of boxes of incoming trays) could be reassigned to this task, creating no significant additional labor costs.

All of the costs related to the use of reusables have not been calculated. We were unable to confirm the costs of soap and descaling. We were also unable to calculate the current labor costs associated with handling the intake and disposal of throwaway trays.

Estimated savings accrued by switching to reusable trays. There are several ways in which the City would offset the costs of using reusable trays in its public school system:

Rationale: The primary benefit of switching the New York City public school system to reusables comes from the fact that it would eliminate the need to transport and dispose of approximately 5,300 bags of trash daily, as well as eliminate the impacts of delivering 147,000 disposable trays to City schools every day. The resulting reduction in truck traffic and related environmental and public health benefits, such as reduced air pollution and asthma, would be significant. Reduced wear and tear on the City’s roads would also be expected.

Using the best information available to date, the Coalition estimated the operating costs and savings associated with this proposal and found that the first year's net operating costs of using reusables would be approximately $2.6 million, and in subsequent years would be roughly equivalent to the cost of using disposables.


3. Composting and Organic Waste Prevention Total Cost: $10.1 Million

A. Backyard Composting and Organic Waste Prevention Total Cost: $4.1Million

Proposal: The Department of Sanitation would increase its outreach and promotional efforts to encourage backyard composting and organic waste prevention activities. These efforts would include increasing the distribution of subsidized backyard composting bins in appropriate neighborhoods, with particular emphasis on ensuring that all of the City's 750 community gardens have access to as many compost bins as they have need for and expanding outreach on composting and organics waste prevention to the City’s many businesses and institutions.

DOS currently offers backyard composting bins to residents at a reduced cost, i.e., the City pays $38 per bin and sells them to residents for $10 to $20 apiece. Unfortunately, the City has not promoted the availability of the bins much beyond a very limited pilot program. An increased budget for outreach and advertising would ensure that willing residents are able to take advantage of this opportunity to begin composting in their backyards.

Further, the City could greatly reduce its disposal costs by restoring the composting and organic waste prevention outreach staff at the four botanical gardens. At full staffing levels – four or five staff per garden – these outreach programs could help to implement institutional, agency and business composting and organic waste prevention programs, and also train, work cooperatively with and serve as technical experts for the community-based waste prevention and recycling coordinators. Since the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is charged with increasing composting at both Bronx and Manhattan gardens, their budget should be increased to reflect the number of gardens within their jurisdiction. The staff would also work closely with community gardens.

The proposed $4.1 million budget includes:

Rationale: DOS recently completed a pilot program and in June 1999, issued a report entitled, Backyard Composting in New York City: A Comprehensive Program Evaluation. Despite DOS’s conclusion that institution of a full-scale backyard composting program would have negligible results, the report offers some promising findings. If a full-scale backyard composting program achieves the same participation rates as the pilot, it could save a minimum of $1.15 million per year in disposal costs. Therefore, the $2.4 million investment in backyard composting bins would be recovered in just over two years. Further, because of their ten-year life span, the subsidized compost bins would be an up-front expense that would yield disposal cost savings for years to come.

Composting outreach staff, housed at the four botanical gardens, would recover the expenses of their programs through disposal cost savings. When the outreach programs were fully funded (in the early 1990s), they worked with schools, City agencies, institutions, residents and businesses to achieve significant reductions in organic waste. For example, outreach staff was successful in instituting a "leave it on the lawn" program within the New York City Housing Authority. This NYCHA program alone reduced 9,000 tons of grass waste per year, for an annual cost savings (by today’s cost standards) of $675,000. Similar programs, including food and yard waste composting and other organic waste prevention, could be instituted with other City agencies, such as the Parks Department, public hospitals and universities.

B. Institutional In-Vessel Composting Pilot Programs Total Cost: $6 Million

Proposal: Install multiple small scale in-vessel composting systems for food waste/organic material from hospitals, colleges, nursing homes and large cafeterias and test mixed waste composting systems, either within or outside the city, to evaluate the feasibility of composting as an alternative to export. The $6 million budget includes:

Rationale: The Department of Sanitation’s 1992 Solid Waste Management Plan found that organic waste represents 25% of the waste stream from institutions, much of that being food waste. Operating at capacity, each small-scale system would manage 36.5 tons of food wastes per year. A capital investment of $2 million could finance 100 small in-vessel composting systems, which would divert more than 3,000 tons of organics per year. At this scale the systems would result in cost savings of $225,000 annually, and provide a full return of the City's investment in eight years.

The Department of Sanitation estimates that 73% of the waste generated by the city’s residents is comprised of organic material and paper, both of which are readily compostable. The two 50 ton per day mixed-waste composting facilities would divert 36,000 tons of waste per year at capacity– representing $1.2 million per year in avoided export costs and creating a badly needed soil amendment for local parks and greenways. Therefore, the city would recoup its investment in these facilities in less than four years. By relying solely on landfill and incineration disposal options for non-recycled waste, the city is losing an opportunity to develop sustainable disposal methods that can generate much need soil products for the city. DOS estimates that that annual demand for compost in New York City is between 800,000 and 2 million tons per year. The Parks Department uses between 35,000 and 100,000 tons of topsoil each year, based on DOS estimates.


4. Waste Prevention in the Private Sector Total Cost: $12.2 Million

A. Technical Assistance to Help Businesses Prevent Waste Total Cost: $7 million

Proposal: Expand the WasteMatch program, a materials exchange service for New York City businesses. WasteMatch helps businesses reduce waste disposal costs, find cheaper raw materials and/or generate revenues from scrap or surplus materials. With an annual budget of $500,000 (an approximate $300,000 increase over current funding levels) WasteMatch could greatly increase its impacts by doing more outreach, marketing and advertising of the program, and by performing more direct brokerage and larger transactions based on consistent material streams.

Develop a waste prevention technical assistance center ($1.5 million) staffed with waste audit/prevention specialists serving private businesses. The center would have 12 technical assistance providers that would perform waste audits and work with companies to implement waste prevention initiatives. The waste prevention center would also provide a clearinghouse of information on waste prevention and catalogue waste prevention strategies developed for private sector clients. 12 technical assistance staff would complete between 50-60 full waste audits and work to implement recommended changes.

A budget of $1.5 Million would include:

Establish a $5 million capital fund to finance investments to foster waste prevention and reuse in private businesses. The fund would provide loans for equipment expenses related to waste prevention (i.e., dishwashers, hand-dryers, etc.) Competitive award of grants would be based on commitment to the program and anticipated time for the return on investment. Businesses would repay the funds with the disposal cost-savings they enjoy.

Rationale: The Department of Sanitation currently provides roughly $200,000 per year in funds for the WasteMatch program, a collaboration between NYC Industrial Technology Assistance Corporation, Long Island City Business Development Corporation’s Industrial Waste Recycling and Prevention Program, and the City University of New York. Over the last two years, DOS’s investment of $400,000 (approximately $200,000 per year) has helped more than 200 companies yield savings of more than $431,000. Therefore, the current WasteMatch budget essentially yields dollar for dollar savings to participating companies. Because the increased investment would build on the program’s technical expertise and the infrastructure created to date, the $500,000 annual investment would likely yield direct and indirect savings far exceeding its costs.

Due to their centralized nature, businesses represent unique opportunities to reduce waste. Within the structure of a given business, managers can be directed to identify ways to reduce the waste that is generated, alter purchasing patterns to support the use of more durable goods and increase recycling.

B. Technical and Financial Assistance to Recycling, Reuse and Remanufacturing Businesses Total Cost: $5.2 million

Proposal: Create two staff positions to foster the attraction, development and expansion of recycling, reuse and remanufacturing businesses. A budget of $200,000 would cover the costs of two staff people, as well as related expenses. The staff would provide in-depth technical assistance to recycling and waste-preventing companies located in New York City, including aiding in business planning, financing, market development, and particularly, helping businesses present their products and services to New York City agencies and institutions. This would complement the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Economic Development Assistance Unit, which focuses primarily on regulatory assistance and pollution prevention.

Investment in these staff could leverage significant funding for NYC companies from state and federal sources including Empire State Development’s Environmental Management Investment Group, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, federal agency Small Business Innovation Research programs, and the US Economic Development Administration. The staff would also develop full proposals for additional financing mechanisms to fill the needs of this sector. Such mechanisms could include a revolving loan fund, a capital pool, a tax credit program, etc.

Rationale: Even though business waste does not directly relate to the Fresh Kills closing or the DOS disposal budget, it is critically important for the City to increase its investment in technical assistance programs focused on waste prevention in that sector. The costs of operating a business in New York City are exceedingly high compared to many other locations, especially for the City’s many small firms. For a business, every dollar saved is worth two dollars earned. From an economic development perspective, every dollar saved improves the likelihood that a company will be able to stay in business here and grow. So, by helping businesses save on their waste disposal costs, or generate revenues from sale of their scrap or reusable materials, the City is directly preserving its tax base and retaining jobs. Those savings can actually lead to increases in tax revenue and job generation, as they can make it possible for businesses to expand and grow.

Proposal:  Create a dedicated $5 million fund for reuse, remanufacturing and recycling projects in New York City. The fund would be modeled on Empire State Development's Environmental Management Investment Group (EMIG) and would provide grants for research, development and demonstration, and capital projects with an emphasis on reuse, remanufacturing and other waste prevention projects.  Through a competitive process, EMIG invests in new or expanding companies that reuse, remanufacture or reclaim materials.  The rigorous review process includes detailed market and financial evaluation by EMIG's expert staff. EMIG's nationally recognized grant program has been extremely effective in developing new markets and new technologies that use reusable and recyclable materials in New York State.

Rationale:  The City would benefit greatly by supporting businesses that can use the materials we are currently exporting as garbage.  To recoup the City's investment in one year, this program would only have to divert 1.7 percent of the City's waste stream from export, or less than 67,000 tons.  To recover the investment over five years would require the diversion of only 13,400 tons, or .03% of the City's Waste Stream. The program would not only prevent waste by investing in reuse and remanufacturing enterprises, it would also improve the economic performance of the City's recycling program by investing in companies that can use the recycled materials collected by the City.  In addition, the City would reap substantial benefits in terms of blue-collar job creation and retention, as well as increased tax revenues and new business development.

  1. Waste Prevention Measurement, Evaluation and Research Total Cost: $975,000

A. Residential Quantity Based User Fee (QBUF) Pilot Project Total Cost: $825,000

Proposal: Allocate $300,000 to design and test a high-rise garbage meter for use in a pilot residential program that would charge tenants and building owners for garbage collection and disposal services according to the quantity of the service they use (i.e., the weight of their solid waste). Such a "pay as you throw" program is referred to as Quantity Based User Fees (QBUF).  The funding would be used to hire a vendor to adapt its current systems to incorporate bar-code scanners on each floor, distribute bar-code cards to each tenant, weigh garbage going down the chute, and bill tenants accordingly.  This would enable the City to test the feasibility of assessing garbage costs to individual tenants in high-rise living situations.  An additional project ($100,000) would field test this unit in a few different sized buildings to evaluate its effectiveness and/or make modifications to improve its performance.

Allocate $150,000 to retain a consultant to investigate other cities' experiences in implementing effective QBUF's in areas with apartment buildings and mixed residential sizes to explore, at a minimum, program costs, effectiveness, waste prevented, and challenges addressed (i.e., illegal dumping, education, etc.).  The study would report how other cities have faced these challenges and recommend the design of a pilot study to test QBUF's in different residential settings in NYC.

Conduct a study to assess the current understanding and attitudes of NYC residents regarding the costs of garbage collection and management and the City's current options.  A consultant would be retained for $275,000 to survey a range of New Yorkers to determine their current level of understanding and attitudes, educate the respondents about the reality of the City's current garbage billing and rates situation, including the export strategy, the benefits of waste prevention, and the value of QBUF's to the city, and then measure any changes in attitudes or opinions that result and their readiness for QBUF's.


Quantity Based User Fees

Quantity Based User Fees (QBUFs) – a system where residents and waste generators are charged based on the amount of waste they generate, rather than taxed for waste collection – has proven to help communities around the country reduce waste and recycle more. DOS has neglected to pursue this route, even though DOS’ own waste prevention consultants also recommended this in 1992. We encourage the Council to direct DOS to find opportunities to implement at least some pilot projects or limited QBUF programs.

Quantity-Based User Fees are used in over 5,000 cities and towns in the US, and this number has been building over the last decade.  Research has shown that QBUFs increase recycling diversion rates, since recycling is usually either free or low-cost in QBUF systems, and is therefore cheaper than throwing recyclables in the garbage.  EPA studies have shown that QBUFs are the largest factor in increasing recycling (even more than going to weekly pickups), and with sufficient well-designed education, QBUFs facilitate waste prevention behaviors on the part of consumers.

Research has shown that economic incentives to change behavior, such as QBUFs, if instituted along with a vigorous education program to indicate how and why to change purchasing habits, product repair and maintenance habits and product disposition habits (e.g., donations, sales, gifts), will be the most effective way to encourage waste prevention.  A few states (e.g., Minnesota) require QBUF pricing strategies.  USEPA has been pushing for this and will be hosting a "QBUFs in Urban Areas" Workshop with Cornell Cooperative Extension and DOS on Dec. 11 at EPA’s offices in New York City.  Members of the City Council, including Sabini and Leffler have been asking DOS why this method has not been pursued here in NYC.

The NYC Waste Prevention Coalition recommends the following six-part QBUF Plan:

  1. First, determine how much is the net cost for garbage services (collection, transfer and export) and recycling services (collection and marketing – sum) per person or household.  Show this figure as a line item on the real estate bills of home and building owners, with educational leaflet, to show people that we have been paying for garbage services all along.  In fact, it would be even better to show how much garbage services cost 5 years ago as well as the present costs, along with a description of the reason why (i.e. export), and an indication of how much less it would cost if we reduced and recycled more.

  3. Research ways that other cities have successfully instituted QBUFs (a) where no separate charges had been made for garbage in the past; and (b) where there are apartment buildings.
  4. Perform a pilot test of a QBUF system in single- and two-family homes to optimize a program for NYC.
  5. Institute QBUFs in low-density areas of the City.
  6. Undertake a pilot test of QBUFs in multi-family dwellings.  Try out different bag, tag, can systems; vary the cost/benefit, educational materials, etc.
  7. Institute QBUFs in high-density areas of the City.


Rationale:  Quantity Based User Fees (QBUF's) have proven extremely effective in dramatically changing the habits of residents in over 5,000 cities small and large across the country.  EPA has prepared considerable documentation of the benefits in books, videos and slides.  Cities using QBUF include: Seattle, WA, Austin, TX, San Jose, CA, and Utica, NY. Performing these studies and analysis would enable the city to design a QBUF system that respond specifically to the challenges of a New York City environment, while taking full advantage of the knowledge gained by other cities that have overcome similar barriers to implement these programs.

  1. Measurement, Evaluation and Proposal of Waste Prevention Programs Total

Cost: $150,000/year [NOTE: If the City’s contractor, SAIC, does not develop waste prevention measurement methodology, these costs could be increased.]

Proposal:  Create a position to develop a methodology and annually evaluate each waste prevention program, incentive, law, directive or other measure.  Evaluation would include the total costs, as well as the annual tonnages of waste avoided, economic value of programs (i.e., jobs created and retained, businesses supported) and related cost savings, e.g., reduced purchasing costs, avoided costs of other programs (i.e., vocational training can reduce welfare rolls and incarceration).   This staff person would also continuously explore industry literature, attend conferences and meetings, and interact with waste prevention professionals around the country to identify and adapt ideas for waste prevention programs, legislation and incentives for use in New York City.  The staff would share all information prepared and gathered from elsewhere with Council and SWABs.

Rationale:  Effective ongoing measurement and evaluation of all waste prevention

programs is critical to determine where the City's waste prevention dollars are best spent.  This relatively small investment -- equal to the cost of exporting of only 1,000 tons of garbage, or less than .02% of the City's waste, annually -- can ensure that the City is implementing the most cost-effective waste prevention programs. Waste prevention programs are the only management strategies that are investments that have return on the budget dollar, as compared with collection, export, landfilling, and recycling.