New York City generates and exports 15,000 tons of residential and commercial waste to distant landfills each day resulting in:
- $450M annually in disposal costs
- Loss of many valuable materials
- Truck traffic and air pollution, disproportionately burdening low-income communities
- Release of millions of tons of greenhouse gases that cause climate change
In response to this growing problem, New York City has set an ambitious target of reaching 70% waste diversion by 2015; yet recycling rates are ~25%. According to the Citywide Recycling Advisory Board, this goal can only be met through a campaign that connects the importance of recycling to the reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and through engaging businesses and the public.
Assets in Our Waste Stream
The following table shows a breakdown of materials discarded by the accommodation, food service, and retail sectors. These material streams are specifically being targeted by CoRR programs.
||Onsite waste reduction, end-of-life treatment
||Wholesale packaging, food packaging
||Beverage containers, plastic bags
Additional information on waste characterization of the residential and street basket streams can be found in the 2004-05 NYC Residential and Street Basket Waste Characterization Study.
Curbing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Increasing the recycling rate is one of the most readily available mechanisms for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and actively engaging the public and industry in the fight against climate change. Achieving 70% waste diversion in New York City’s accommodation, food service, and retail sectors would reduce GHG emissions by 1.7 million metric tons of CO2e, the equivalent amount of emissions released from the consumption of four million barrels of oil, or ~2.8% of New York City’s GHG footprint.
Growing Green Jobs
Waste disposal in New York City currently places a disproportionate burden on lower-income communities. For example, 25% of waste is processed at 15 transfer stations within a mile radius in the South Bronx, exposing communities to increased truck traffic and air pollution, and lowering property values. Through increasing resource recovery, New York City can reduce this impact and increase green job growth.
Influencing Material Recyclability and Recovery Systems Globally
New York City’s size, prominence, diversity, and commitment to sustainability provide a unique opportunity to identify and promote effective waste diversion technologies and programs that can be transferred to major markets throughout the world.