While over 6 million tons of waste is disposed of each year in New York City, there are no local landfills, so the city has been resorting to sending waste to out-of-state landfills. This is not only detrimental to the environment, but it is also quite expensive.

In 2015, the city decided to take action and announced a goal of sending “zero waste” to landfills by 2030 with its One NYC Plan (also known as NYC’s Zero Waste Plan). The Zero Waste Plan is intended to limit the city’s carbon dioxide emissions, improve conditions in affected neighborhoods, and help the city cut back on this significant expense.

The plan outlined five main goals to help make zero waste a reality:

  1. Reducing waste (particularly single-use plastics)
  2. Improved access to recycling
  3. Increased city support for sustainable business
  4. Diverting textile waste from landfills
  5. Extending the life cycle of building materials 

Through a carefully crafted plan calling for waste reduction, enhanced recycling (including composting) programs, and the addition of more wastewater treatment plants with anaerobic digestion that utilize food scraps to generate energy, the ultimate goal of NYC’s Zero Waste Plan is to one day eliminate the use of altogether. 

Nearly six years have passed since New York City announced this goal, but what kind of actions has the city taken to achieve it? In its first year alone, the Zero Waste Plan went from diverting 15.4 percent of trash from landfills to 18 percent in 2015. Additionally, the city has been continually working towards its goal, with initiatives such as expanding the collection of organics, implementing more zero-waste school programs, increasing the recycling of textiles and electronics, and reducing the use of non-recyclable materials.

Keep reading below to learn about some of the biggest steps New York City has taken since announcing its One NYC Plan to improve its waste disposal strategy and achieve its zero-waste goal. 

Solar-Powered Trash Compactors 

The same year the plan was announced, approximately 170 of Bigbelly’s solar-powered “smart” bins were installed throughout the city. Each Bigbelly container contains a chip that can establish when the bin is full or too smelly, which allows trash collectors to make a pick-up where and when they’re needed most. The bins can also help the local government collect data about waste management or display important public service announcements and alerts.

Zero Waste Schools 

In 2016, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Department of Education (DOE) teamed up with GrowNYC to create Zero Waste Schools. Zero Waste Schools is an innovative and collaborative program that intends to divert all recyclable and compostable materials from 100 different schools in a matter of five years. The program will then adopt the best practices learned by these schools and implement them in other schools spanning across the city, making all schools in NYC zero waste.

The State’s Plastic Ban 

Before last year, New Yorkers were utilizing roughly 23 billion plastic bags each year, according to the U.S. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In 2020, the state finally placed a plastic bag ban and began to enforce it in October, mandating that, “any ‘person required to collect tax’ must not distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless such bags are exempt bags as provided for in the Bag Waste Reduction Law.” The Plastic Bag Ban is intended to help the state cut back on litter and reduce greenhouse emissions caused by plastic bag production. The Bag Waste Reduction Law is a great example of the impactful steps New York has taken to achieve its Zero Waste goal.

Polystyrene Packaging Ban 

In 2020, the city deemed that single-use expanded to polystyrene foam as it is not recyclable, and placed a ban on such items.

New York City has certainly been working to attain its Zero Waste goal, but we still have a long way to go. Remember that real change comes from the individual. Collectively, we can make a real difference and positively impact the environment around us. Find out how you can keep reducing your eco-impact with Kiwi Energy, and stay tuned to our blog for more ways you can make more sustainable choices.