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Guide to Waste Prevention Issues and Solutions for New York City

New York City’s garbage export policy has quadrupled the City’s waste disposal costs since 1998. Costs are expected to double again within 2 years. The waste management budget is approaching $1 billion!*

* http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/newsfax/insidethebudget77.pdf

Do we have to export so much?

No!  The clear alternative is investment in measures to reduce waste.

Waste Prevention

The Issue: New York City is increasingly exporting vast amounts of solid waste at escalating cost

The Solution: Waste Prevention is the most cost-effective, socially responsible, and environmentally sound method of addressing our waste problem.

The Problem: Too Much Export

In March of 2001, the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, officially closed for municipal waste.  The City now exports approximately 11,400 tons per day of residential and institutional solid waste to landfills and incinerators in other states.  This is in addition to 27,000 tons per day of commercial waste, much of which has been exported for over a decade.  Thus over 3 million additional tons per year of NYC’s waste will need to be transported to and disposed of at out-of-city landfills and incinerators.

Costs are Skyrocketing*

The cost of transferring, transporting, and disposing of the City’s waste stream has grown from $578 million in 1997 to $996 million projected for 2001, and is projected to reach $1 billion by 2003.   $300 million of this is for export.  These dramatically increasing costs compete with schools, social services, and other essential services for our scarce tax dollars.

* NYC Independent Budget Office


Environmental and Public Health Costs

The current "interim" system for exporting solid waste also has severe public health impacts, due in part to an estimated 425,000 extra trips each year by diesel exhaust-spewing garbage trucks, substantially raising pollution levels in predominantly low-income and minority neighborhoods along the routes and around transfer stations. There are also significant environmental impacts from solid waste disposal including generation of toxic gases and global-warming greenhouse gases.

Managing such huge volumes of waste also hcauses substantial regional and global environmental problems associated with the extraction, manufacture, and transport of excess goods and packaging, impacting on natural resources, energy and materials use, and on global warming.  If just one household generated 5% less waste, and then recycled what remained, 309 pounds of carbon equivalent could be reduced.*    For New York City this equates to 538,000 tons of carbon equivalent (or 403,500 fewer cars on the road).


The Solution Is Waste Prevention

Waste prevention means a reduction in the volume and the toxicity of solid waste. This is a proactive solid waste strategy that gets to the source of the problems facing New York and other cities by stopping waste before it’s created.

The City spends less than $5 million per year on waste prevention initiatives as compared with $300 million for export. Waste export, not counting collection, costs $95 per ton. Waste prevention in New York City has cost only $27 / ton for programs implemented in the 1990s according to Department of Sanitation research.* Waste prevention programs also reduce collection costs as much as $100/ton.

* SAIC Waste Prevention Research, 2000

In 1992 the City committed to reduce its solid waste by 10% by 2000. At a savings of $65/ton over export, a reduction of 1100 tons per day of waste would amount to a savings of $71,500/day or well over $20 million per year. Adding in savings for avoided collection costs shows that investments in waste prevention pay off. DOS predicted that reduction of 600,000 tons a year would reduce collection costs by over $26 million in 2000 (because the number of truck shifts would be reduced by 4 to 5%). 

Individuals, businesses, and government agencies can practice waste prevention by:


What are the Benefits of Waste Prevention?

Waste prevention will:


What can elected officials do to reduce waste export and save the City money?


Want to know more? Please contact:

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