FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2023
The Act is the most aggressive Zero Waste legislation in the nation with targets and accountability, mandated citywide curbside organics, and increased community access.
Today, in the midst of a climate crisis caused by hazardous wildfire smoke covering the region, New York City committed to the ambitious but necessary goal of Zero Waste by 2030. Over the next seven years, NYC will transform the nation’s largest municipal waste operation by dramatically reducing the city’s carbon footprint and environmental impact.
The Zero Waste Act positions New York City as a global leader on zero waste. These new laws pave the way for diverting organics and recyclables from landfills and incinerators, reducing waste export costs, and maintaining cleaner streets in our neighborhoods. It is the culmination of over 30 years of advocacy from grassroots and environmental coalitions for zero waste policies. The Act will have regional environmental benefits by reducing reliance on landfills and incinerators in upstate New York communities and neighboring states.
Sanitation Chair Sandy Nurse, along with Council Members Hanif and Powers, passed the five pieces of legislation that set Zero Waste targets for 2030, require Zero Waste annual reporting, codify mandatory citywide curbside organics, secure community food scrap drop offs, and create new community recycling centers across New York City. After a year-long push, the Zero Waste Act is the most cosponsored legislative package this session, demonstrating this Council’s commitment to climate action. The Zero Waste Act includes:
- Intro 274-A, sponsored by Council Member Sandy Nurse, establishes a goal of diverting recyclables and organic waste by 100% by 2030 from landfills and incinerators.
- Intro 275-A, sponsored by Council Member Sandy Nurse, requires the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to annually report on the City’s progress on Zero Waste goals.
- Intro 244-A, sponsored by Council Member Shahana Hanif, creates a mandatory citywide curbside organics program for residential buildings, with language accessible outreach and education.
- Intro 280-A, sponsored by Council Member Keith Powers, establishes community recycling centers and community recycling events.
- Intro 281-B, sponsored by Council Member Keith Powers, requires organic waste drop off sites and community composting facilities.
Together, these laws represent a comprehensive, sweeping approach to advancing zero waste and tackling the over 11,000 tons of residential waste New Yorkers generate every single day. The Zero Waste Act is a landmark achievement for New York City that advances sustainable waste management and tackles our climate crisis.
“Today, as New York City experiences the worst air quality in the world, passing The Zero Waste Act is a major, timely environmental justice victory for New York City and beyond,” said Council Member Sandy Nurse. “In this Act, we recognize that waste management is not simply about convenience, but a matter of justice and equity. These bills are an act of solidarity with predominantly low-income and communities of color living near landfills and incinerators in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania – communities that are fighting to protect their land, air, and health – where we send 11,000 tons of waste per day. After fighting for environmental justice for years as a grassroots activist, I’m proud to have led the charge in the Council for this package.”
“As a frontline and coastal community, it is essential to our City’s long-term survival that we act to address climate change. Today, New York City takes its rightful place as a global leader in the fight against a climate catastrophe,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “I’m thrilled to be standing arm-in-arm with climate activists to enthusiastically celebrate the passage of our Zero Waste package. After a year of difficult negotiations and strong advocacy, we are finally ensuring that our City’s composting program is mandatory, local composting capacity is expanded, and our Zero Waste commitments are written into law. This is an incredible victory for our City.”
“The passage of the CORE Act is a victory for our city’s environment and climate justice,” said City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “It will significantly expand equitable access to composting and recycling by establishing drop-off sites across the five boroughs and diverting waste from city landfills. Combined with the rest of the Zero Waste package, this is a major step forward in creating a greener, more sustainable New York City.”
“With the passage of the Zero Waste Act, the New York City Council has taken a critical step forward to achieving the sustainable future New Yorkers deserve,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Through increased access to composting and recycling sites, all New Yorkers will now be able to participate more equitably in our collective goal of diverting all recyclables and organic waste from landfills and incinerators by 2023. I thank Council Members Sandy Nurse, Shahana Hanif, and Majority Leader Keith Powers for their leadership to advance this comprehensive legislation and build the necessary infrastructure for New York City to achieve our zero waste goals.”
“As we see hazardous air spread across the east coast and right here at home — a direct reaction to our climate change crisis — today’s Zero Waste Act victory is long overdue but extremely celebrated,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “The Zero Waste Act will help mitigate environmental hazards from emissions that fall disproportionately on low-income and communities of color who live in closer proximity to landfills and waste facilities as well as create a culture of sustainability that other states will look to New York to follow. As someone who has pushed for reform to our waste systems for nearly a decade, I’m proud to stand by Council Members Shahana Hanif and Keith Powers, and Sanitation Chair Council Member Sandy Nurse as they pass this historic package of legislation.”
“Universal and mandatory composting is not only a critical component of New York City’s environmental stewardship, it’s also a smart investment in our future. By turning organic waste into nutrient-rich compost, we both reduce landfill waste and create a valuable resource that enriches our soil and nourishes our plants. The Council’s Zero Waste package demonstrates the importance of electing environmental advocates, and Council Member Nurse’s leadership as Chair of the Committee on Sanitation is delivering win-win solutions for our planet, City, and budget,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez.
“Over one third of our waste is organic material. Universal composting for every residential building is a major step in reducing our food waste and tackling the climate crisis. Big congrats to Council Members Powers, Nurse, and Hanif for passing the Zero Waste package,” said Council Member Lincoln Restler.
“The passage of the Zero Waste Act is a milestone in creating an environmentally sound and economically sensible waste policy in the nation’s largest city. If successfully implemented, it will help slash climate-destroying methane emissions, save taxpayer dollars by reducing trash exports to out-of-state landfills and incinerators, and cut-back on pollution in overburdened environmental justice communities,” said Eric A. Goldstein, New York City Environment Director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Bravo to Councilmembers Nurse, Hanif, and Powers, and Speaker Adams, for their leadership on this significant legislative accomplishment that will do lasting good for the City.”
“Everyday, New Yorkers & particularly Black, Indigenous, people of color are facing the impacts of the climate crisis, with no end in sight,” says Rami Dinnawi, Environmental Justice Campaigns and Policy Manager at El Puente. “The Zero Waste Act offers a community-centered mandate, creating an alternative reality to fenceline communities that have had to endure the pollution from GHG emitting landfills. With universal organics, this package can transform our waste into a resource that nurtures our trees, cleans our air and enriches our soils.”
“Low income communities and communities of color have been fighting for relief from the waste sector for decades. The Zero Waste Act, along with the transformative Waste Equity and Commercial Waste Zones Laws, helps New York City advance a more sustainable and equitable waste management system. These new Zero Waste mandates and reporting requirements will hold the City accountable to our climate and environmental justice goals,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
“Our City’s massive solid waste problem can be solved with common-sense waste reduction policies and the political will to see them through,” said Justin Wood, Director of Policy at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “We applaud the City Council for mandating citywide organics recycling and local composting services, setting meaningful Zero Waste by 2030 goals, and requiring the comprehensive planning and reporting that are needed to synchronize large scale waste reduction and public education programs across the commercial, residential, and construction and demolition sectors. We look forward to working with this Council, DSNY and City Hall to ensure that these policies reduce local air pollution and create good green jobs in the environmental justice communities most burdened with truck-intensive waste facilities while sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our current landfill- and incineration-centered system.”
“As NYC’s first bike powered organic waste micro hauling and compost operation led by youth, we applaud our champions in city council for their visionary efforts to bring our city closer to a zero waste system. The more waste diverted from landfills and incinerators, the more the communities we serve can thrive with cleaner air and a livable climate. We look forward to continuing to do our part by creating our high quality compost and educating the next generation of environmental leaders and advocates,” said Dior St Hillaire and Nora Tjossem, Co-Directors, BK ROT.
“Today marks a critical victory in New York City’s fight for climate justice. Our city faces a massive crisis with trash, pickup, and managing our waste. Council Member Nurse’s Zero Waste Package passing the City Council is a critical first step in ensuring our city can meet its larger zero waste goals on time. Young New Yorkers in particular are excited to see the legislation passed and are looking forward to seeing it implemented, particularly in NYC schools,” said Shiv Soin, Co-Executive Director of TREEage.
“We applaud the New York City Council for codifying the goal of diverting 100% of recyclables and organic waste by 2030 from landfills and incinerators, as well as passing a citywide, residential curbside organics collections program. Here in the Finger Lakes, we’re host to Seneca Meadows – the state’s largest landfill – 30% of which is made up of trash from New York City. With this measure, the City is accepting responsibility by diverting its waste. Now, the Governor must close the landfill on schedule in 2025. But this can’t be a town by town or city by city fight. We must also enact comprehensive, statewide zero-waste legislation that builds on Council Member Nurse’s crucial work in the New York City Council,” said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian.
“New York City’s waste crisis won’t be solved by gimmicky campaigns or wishing it away. It takes real investment in proven ideas, driven by communities–the people who know what’s needed because they’ve been shouldering the burdens for years. It’s inspiring to see the City Council recognize that through practical policy that will have an immediate and positive impact. This Zero Waste package is a critical step on our journey toward a sustainable urban culture,” said Ryan Castalia, Executive Director at Sure We Can.
“I am proud to be working in coalition with Council colleagues to move forward bold sanitation and solid waste policies that will improve our environment and make sustainable lifestyle choices easier. A third of our waste stream is organic material that serves as a food source for rats and vermin, and puts methane into the atmosphere, and City leadership must take steps to divert organic waste from landfills and incinerators. Investing in more responsible methods of waste disposal and empowering communities to improve practices will benefit our quality of life and wellbeing,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera
“The city has to pay to truck organic waste—food scraps, yard waste, etc—to landfills, where it decomposes and creates greenhouse gases and makes the climate crisis worse,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “If we can mandate enough volume of organics and keep that material out of the solid waste stream, we can save on landfill costs, make a usable product, and help save the planet—it’s a three-fer! But first we need to generate that volume, and that’s a big part of what these bills will do.”
“I’m proud to serve on a Council committed to always doing our part to confront the climate crisis with action. The Zero Waste package is a great solution that benefits our environment and has the potential to save our city millions of dollars annually. With this package, we can provide composters with workable solutions that will help us address environmental challenges head-on. It is time to make New York City a cleaner and more sustainable place to live while meeting our climate and equity goals,” said Council Member Eric Dinowitz.
Background on Zero Waste:
Zero Waste is not just about putting an item in the right waste basket, it is about preventing waste in the first place and building circular economies. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, Zero Waste means the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health. Zero waste is an ambitious framework that requires action at all levels of government to catalyze more circular economies and tackle waste from production to disposal.
Achieving zero waste also requires New York State legislative action. Council Member Nurse and Speaker Adams passed a resolution in 2022 calling on the New York State Legislature to pass a robust Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bill, which would hold the producers – as opposed to consumers – accountable for the irresponsible production of single use products. NYC has seen a major increase in paper and plastic waste, which is burdening our aging and inequitable waste infrastructure. Robust packaging laws can reduce the quantity and toxicity of packaging, improve the reuse practices, and help improve NYC’s 17% recycling rate.
The New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) Scoping Plan also highlights organics and recycling programs and infrastructure as key components of achieving our climate goals. The City first implemented mandatory recycling over three decades ago – a major milestone that we are building on today. We must continue to accelerate action on an issue that impacts our city, our health, our environment, and our climate.
In order to make our pathway to Zero Waste real, we need to expand, catalyze, and invest in organics and recycling infrastructure. New York City and State should support the development of large-scale composting facilities to regeneratively process our organic waste, like the DSNY Staten Island Compost Facility. While co-digestion at the city’s wastewater resource recovery facilities may have a role to play in our waste management, we have to carefully assess the impacts and benefits of these new systems.
We must continue to prioritize real composting for the future of organics processing, as it can continually generate compost from food scraps to enrich our city soils, support urban agriculture, enhance our urban forest, absorb stormwater, and increase resilience. We must also support the work and operations of community composters that manage small to mid-scale operations – these distributed operations are an integral element of localizing the benefits of compost and providing hands-on education opportunities for youth and communities.