October 25, 2019

Environmental Justice, Media Coverage, News, Transform Don't Trash NYC

Media interest has picked up in the horrific impacts of New York’s wild-west private trash industry, as a vote looms next Wednesday, Oct. 30, on the fantastic reform measures proposed by NYLPI and our allies in the “Transform-Don’t-Trash-NYC” coalition.

The City quoted NYLPI’s Justin Wood in an extensive dive into the failure of private trash haulers to meet emission standard deadlines set up in 2007:

Some activists argue the 2007 standard is hopelessly outdated.

“It’s a huge concern because a 2007 diesel truck is, first of all, not a very rigorous standard for an industry to meet,” said Justin Wood, director of organizing and strategic research at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “The standard doesn’t really move us far along in terms of climate change and local air pollution.”

Read the full story by reporter Ese Olumhense here.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam News reporter Stephon Johnson covered our “Trashing New York’s Neighborhoods” report, which detailed how the private trash industry has increased the amount of garbage and asthma-causing truck journeys it’s hauling through New York’s black and brown neighborhoods.

Treated like trash: report shows how commercial waste lands in poor, Black and Brown hoods

Stephon Johnson | 10/24/2019, 12:02 p.m.
A new report exposes the environmental racism that’s commonplace in New York City.

“Trashing New York’s Neighborhoods,” a report by the New York Lawyers for Public Interest, revealed that the city’s commercial waste transfer stations have increased their trash output by 35% (more than 500,000 tons per year) since 2015. Most of that increase has been dumped in disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color like the South Bronx, northern Brooklyn and southeast Queens, playing a factor in higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

According to the report, the sanitation industry’s increasing reliance on polluting and unequal waste disposal has undermined the city’s efforts to equitably spread the burden of waste disposal equally across the five boroughs.

“NYLPI’s been working in coalition with environmental justice communities for many years to address the environmental racism filled in our solid waste management system,” Justin Wood, director of organizing and strategic research for NYLPI, told the AmNews. “We actually worked with the environmental justice alliance and others to pass a law last year that is just going into effect now to limit the amount of garbage that can be handled by private waste management companies and stations in poor communities and communities of color.”

The Waste Equity Law (Local Law 152) is scheduled to go into effect this month and the NYPL believes the city needs to pass that along with comprehensive legislation to make the commercial waste industry sustainable, equitable and efficient. A robust version of the Commercial Waste Zones Bill (Intro 1574 of 2019) will give the City the policy tools needed to reduce garbage truck emissions, reduce the amount of commercial waste generated in New York City, and ensure that commercial waste does not continue to be disproportionately handled in communities overburdened by pollution and health problems.

Wood told the AmNews that the bill has the support of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“We want to make sure that the private side of the garbage industry is also going to create better facilities like the one on the affluent Upper East Side,” said Wood. He also admitted that the UES facility was fought against by local residents through the courts leading to multiple delays.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso said a commercial waste zone system would instill equity into the private sanitation industry while simultaneously abiding by environmentally sustainable practices. He also said it would meet strict labor and safety standards and manage better shifts for workers.

“Communities of color, like my district in Williamsburg, have long borne the consequences that come with handling a disproportionate amount of our City’s trash,” stated Reynoso. “Advocates and I have fought tirelessly to instill equity into our City’s waste processing system by limiting the amount of trash handled in overburdened districts and by advocating for export by barge rather than trucks. Data from a recent report by the Transform Don’t Trash Coalition shows that our efforts are being undermined by the private carting industry’s increased reliance on trucking for the export of commercial waste.”

Reporting on these issues?

Are you a journalist interested in taking a deeper dive (excuse the pun) into garbage issues, and how they impact people here in New York? Or are you interested in building a relationship to cover any of the other areas in which NYLPI is fostering justice through community power? We maintain good relationships with a host of journalists both in New York and around the world, and are very proud to work with them on groundbreaking coverage of the issues we work on. So if you’re a journalist seeking comment on an ongoing story related to our work, or keen to develop a line of investigative reporting, please do contact:

Hillary Wasserman at 212 784 5726 or

Thanks for your interest in our work.

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