Last month, the DeBlasio administration announced a formal timeline to implement the most dramatic overhaul of the commercial waste industry in the city’s history. This proposed policy — both its process and potential consequences — should concern everyone, from customers, to businesses and employees, and our city officials.
The true consequences of this so-called reform will be the impact on customer pricing and quality of service, loss of jobs, and likely shuttering of small businesses that have operated for generations.
A public policy shift of this magnitude would transition a regulated, competitive, free-market system in which customers choose their vendors and negotiate pricing and service, to a government-imposed, one-size-fits-all, zoned collection system where customer choice is completely eliminated.
This proposed overhaul is based entirely on a hastily prepared, incomplete, and flawed study with underlying data that is unreliable, outdated, and mischaracterized.
New York City’s private waste industry is intensely regulated. The Business Integrity Commission, whose core mission is to keep the industry free of organized crime, sets forth rules and regulations to promote competition and protect customers. Under these rules, carters strongly compete for business using a customized combination of price and service. The beneficiaries of this competition are the city’s commercial businesses and their customers.
How can an industry be evaluated on a metric upon which its regulator places no emphasis? Those advocating for a shift to a zoned collection system prefer to measure efficacy in terms of number of trucks and mileage. The commission’s regulations, however, place no emphasis on limiting trucks. In fact, it can be argued that existing regulations foster an environment with more companies and trucks, and therefore, more miles travelled.
Additionally, the waste industry is being singled out among the city’s free-market trucking industries — there is also beverage, dairy, bakery, produce, meat, linens, packages, construction materials, and more.
It would be highly irresponsible for city officials to proceed down a path of dramatically overhauling an honest, virtually complaint-free $500-million industry without first taking exhaustive measures to ensure the evaluation is as comprehensive and accurate as possible. Rather than waiting for a radical overhaul, from which there is no coming back, changing rules within the existing free-market system can achieve the same goals more quickly.
The Council and Mayor DeBlasio should postpone further policy making on this issue until the following steps are taken:
1. Initiate stakeholder review of existing Business Integrity Commission regulations to amend and create regulations that limit the number of companies, trucks and miles travelled.
2. Define acceptable industry metrics that achieve common goals.
3. Commission a new comprehensive study using real time data, performed by a consortium of consultants including an industry representative, and evaluate both private carters and city sanitation.
Developing and revising important public policy must be done carefully, thoughtfully, fairly, and deliberately in order to ensure its most important goal: credibility. The current process is lacking in all these areas. Customers, small businesses, and their employees are the ones that will be impacted — and they are the ones who can afford it the least.
Stephen Leone is the owner of Industrial Carting in Clinton Hill, and a member of New Yorkers for Responsible Waste Management.