By Forum Staff
Mayor Bill de Blasio this week highlighted the Zero Waste Challenge, through which 31 businesses across all five boroughs are reducing waste. The project is part of the administration’s OneNYC plan to send Zero Waste to landfill by 2030. Participants include some of the city’s most iconic businesses, such as ABC/Disney, Barclays Center, Citi Field, Le Bernardin, and Whole Foods.
“Our Zero Waste Challenge participants are leaders in their industries – and now they’re also leaders in sustainability,” de Blasio said. “In OneNYC, we made a major commitment to sending Zero Waste to landfill by 2030. We’re doing what we can to make recycling and composting as accessible as possible to New Yorkers, but everyone will need to do their part to make a more sustainable New York City a reality. These businesses are leading the way.”
Since the Challenge started earlier this year, participants have diverted nearly 13,000 tons of waste from landfill and incineration (including composting over 4,000 tons), through tactics such as modifying purchasing, reducing packaging, and switching to reusable materials or digital storage. For example, some participants have stocked their offices with reusable coffee mugs or glasses in lieu of disposable cups and bottled water; another did away with filing cabinets and moved to a digital storage system.
The Challenge also requires any participant that regularly has leftover edible food to donate that food to a food collection organization such as City Harvest or Rock and Wrap it Up!, to ensure the food can be used at shelters or food pantries for hungry New Yorkers.
The average diversion rate of all Challenge participants is 60 percent.
This Zero Waste Challenge comes ahead of the new commercial organics law which will require certain subsets of businesses to source separate food scraps and other organic material for beneficial use in 2017, as well as new commercial recycling rules that simplify the City’s current commercial recycling rules, making them easier for businesses to follow. Under these new Department of Sanitation rules, all businesses must recycle all recyclable materials.
Businesses participating in the Zero Waste Challenge come from a variety of sectors, including sports arenas and stadiums; commercial tenants and building owners; food wholesalers, grocers and caterers; schools; hotels; restaurants; and TV productions. To successfully complete the Challenge, each participant has committed to divert at least 50% of their waste from landfill and incineration by the end of the Challenge.
Participants are further challenged to step up their efforts and divert 75 percent – and ultimately 90 percent – of waste, if possible; however, these higher levels of diversion are not required to complete the Challenge. Diversion of waste from landfill and incineration can be achieved in many ways, including by purchasing less and more efficiently, using reusable materials whenever possible, donating all edible food to feed hungry New Yorkers, separating food scraps for composting or other beneficial use and separating recyclables for recycling.
“The Zero Waste Challenge is good for everybody. I’m lucky that in New York we have many organizations that help people in need. City Harvest rescues food that is perfectly fresh and nutritious and distributes to 600 shelters in New York as well as create mobile markets in the Bronx and Staten Island and other parts of the city. New York has almost 1.4 million people living under poverty level that are struggling to find their next meal and this year, City Harvest will rescue 55 million pounds in excess food that would otherwise go to waste,” said Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin.
The Challenge kicked off earlier this year and will run through mid-June 2016.