What’s in the Pipeline for Zero Waste NYC?

July 19, 2016 marked an important date on the calendar for New York’s food establishments. It was the date that the NYC Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) Commercial Organics Rules came into play, bringing eco-friendly air into the city. Since that time, businesses involved in the preparation, sale, and serving of food have played a bigger part in how the city approaches sustainable waste management.



In 2018, the DSNY extended the scope of its regulations once more, taking in a broader range of business types and sizes. Today, the regulations for commercial composting in NYC cover:




Restaurants with a floor area of at least 15,000 square feet



Chain restaurants with 100 or more locations under common ownership or control, are individually franchised outlets of a parent business, or do business under the same corporate name



Food retailers with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet


Any businesses that fall within these size guidelines are now at the forefront of NYC’s composting revolution. What this means in practical terms, of course, is that commercial organics waste must now be sorted and separated at the source. However, with a range of options available to businesses to help achieve the city’s goal of sending zero waste to landfill by 2030, it’s never been easier to recycle organic materials and protect the environment.



Compliance, Transportation and Processing

As part of the regulatory framework set out by the DSNY, businesses must now ensure that staff separate food scraps, plant trimmings, food-soiled paper and certified compostable products from other waste and recyclables. In order to remain compliant, labeled containers and signage must be provided for staff to successfully achieve this goal. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that commercial organics bins are not contaminated and that they are properly sealed.

The next step in the recycling journey is to either arrange transportation or process the waste on-site. Waste can either be self-hauled to a processing facility or collected and dropped off by a private carter. While this may sound like a lot to take in for businesses, RTS is on-hand to offer advice, guidance on compliance, signage and dumpsters alongside both on-demand and recurring collections to help streamline commercial organic waste management operations in NYC.

Additionally, for those truly at the cutting edge of commercial organics composting in NYC, on-site processing through composting or aerobic/anaerobic digestion is also an option. Businesses looking at this option must install the correct equipment on-site and renew registration with the DSNY on a yearly basis.



Additional NYC Zero Waste Programs and Events

As of January 2019, the DSNY has introduced a polystyrene ban that further reinforces the wish to create a true zero waste city. However, due to the dramatic impact this is likely to have on a huge range of businesses in NYC, a six-month warning period has been put in place to allow ample time to adapt. This will give anyone still using polystyrene containers the opportunity to move to either compostable or reusable alternatives before the June 30 deadline.

In addition to legislation such as this, the DSNY is also working hard to educate both businesses and the general public. For example, having teamed up with the Department of Education and Recycling Champions, the Zero Waste initiative has been launched in schools as part of a wider movement to push sustainable ideals and practices in the city. On the commercial side, 2019 will see the NYC Food Waste Fair bring together businesses and a wealth of waste management providers, such as RTS, alongside workshops and skills training to help address issues surrounding commercial composting in NYC. New York’s plans for composting the Big Apple are very much underway, and it seems that as both business owners and the public become more aware of our ecological impact, the Zero Waste program will continue to grow.

Receive Our Industry Updates