New York City reducing number of garbage trucks on its streets

By Chris Spahr

New York City took a big step last month in its efforts to reduce the number of garbage trucks on city streets when it signed a 20-year, $3 billion contract with the waste-to-energy firm, Covanta. The firm plans to send about 30 percent of the city’s solid waste to power-generating incinerators using primarily barges and railroads. This will help the city move closer to its goals of improving solid waste management and reducing associated negative impacts as cited in PlaNYC 2030, New York City’s effort to plan for one million more residents and the resulting impacts on the city’s quality of life.

More than 2,000 city government trucks and 4,000 private trucks are needed to collect residential waste from across the five boroughs of New York City. However, the New York City Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP), once fully implemented, is predicted to reduce city-collection truck travel by nearly 3 million miles, private long-haul truck travel on city streets by 2.8 million miles, and long-haul truck travel outside the city by 55 million miles.  The plan, implemented in 2006 and involving the city, the Sanitation Commissioner, and Waste Management of New York, is making significant progress.  In the 2011 update of PlaNYC 2030, the city reported that approximately 30 percent of city-collected waste now leaves the city by rail. The city hopes to reach a goal of moving 41 percent of its solid waste by rail, 47 percent by barge, and only 12 percent by truck.

Covanta plans to move about 3,000 of the 11,000 tons of daily solid waste produced in New York City through two new marine transfer stations in Queens and Manhattan due to open in 2015 and 2016, respectively. There also are plans to construct two more marine transfer stations in Brooklyn. When completed, these transfer stations will be the locations where trash is packed into 18-ton containers and placed on barges to be moved to railroad transfer depots. From there, the waste will be moved on freight trains to Covanta facilities near Buffalo and Chester, Pennsylvania.

Chris Spahr is a Graduate Assistant with SSTI.