New York City's Waste Disposal Problem

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What is Waste Export?
New York City no longer has any operating waste disposal facilities (landfills or incinerators) within its borders. As a result, all waste produced in NYC that is not recycled or composted, must be exported to disposal facilities located outside of the City. NYC currently produces about 11,000 tons per day of residential waste, 10,000 tons per day of commercial waste, and 26,000 tons per day of construction and demolition debris.

All values current as of
Construction /
  Total Waste Produced Today: -tons

Time Period:
Total Waste Exported: -tons
Total Cost for Export ($70/ton): $
Total Outbound Truck Trips:  of 723 today

Time Period:
Total Waste Exported: -tons
Total Cost for Export ($70/ton): $
Total Outbound Truck Trips:  of 264,000 this year

DISCLAIMER: The numbers displayed by this live-model calculator are based on derived values obtained from given average daily waste stream sums. Although mathematically predicted, these values do not reflect the actual values for the given moment, rather, they are presented here to offer the reader an idea of an approximate amount of waste generated and what the impact it has monetarily and on truck traffic.

What does export mean to NYC?
Since the closure of the Fresh Kills landfill, the Department of Sanitation's (DSNY's) cost for waste disposal have increased from $42 per ton at Fresh Kills to $70 per ton for export. In addition, now that the City is 100% dependent on export for disposal, it is vulnerable to possible inter-state restrictions on waste movement, or new laws such as the $4 per ton tax Pennsylvania recently levied on all waste disposed of in its landfills.

The City is now considering development of a landfill upstate that would reduce the risks associated with inter-state disposal.

In addition to the financial cost, waste export has lead to a major increase in truck traffic in NYC. In the long term, DSNY intends to have a waste export system that relies on barges and trains. However, today, the system depends almost entirely on trucks. According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Closure of Fresh Kills landfill has added an estimated 264,000 outbound truck trips per year to the City's bridges and tunnels.

Best Practices
There are several ways to minimize the problems in NYC associated with waste export. One is to minimize the waste that needs to be exported in the first place through waste prevention, recycling, and composting. Other cities, such as San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon are recycling close to 50% of their waste, and have set targets as high as 75%.

Another way to reduce the problem of export is to develop barge and rail based transfer and transportation systems to minimize the trucking needed to handle the waste that remains after waste prevention, recycling, and composting. In addition, a good distribution of transfer points is critical to minimize the distance that collection trucks must travle before dumping. their load.

In Manhattan, advocacy for barge and rail based tranfer must focus only on lower Manhattan (south of 59th street) for several reasons:

  1. First, below 59th street is where the vast majority of commercial waste is produced, and the most economic and efficient plan for moving that waste would require marine and rail transfer systems located below 59th street.

  2. Second, Northern Manhattan is already home to many polluting and noxious facilities that provide a benefit to all Manhattan residents, but impose a significant air quality and health burden on those of us that live and work in Northern Manhattan. Although Northern Manhattan is only 7.25-square miles, among the many polluting and noxious facilities are:

    • The only two outdoor NYCTA train yards in Manhattan
    • One of two of the boroughs Port Authority bus terminals
    • Two swage treatment plants (the City's second and third largest diesel-powered plants)
    • Six out of eight of the boroughs diesel bus depots
    • Several City-owned diesel truck depots

    These facilities contribute to the poor air quality in Northern Manhattan, which in turn impact the health of the residents who live there. Northern Manhattan has the highest rates of asthma hospitalizations not only in Manhattan, but in the entire City. Southern Manhattan must begin to take more of these facilities which provide a borough-wide benefit.
Options for Action
  • Minimize the amount of waste you produce by reducing waste at the source, recycling, and composting.
  • Participate in the City's planning process for marine and rail based export facilities.

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