Zero Waste in NYC

A third of all waste that New Yorkers haul to the curb is organic. In recognition that organic matter emits harmful greenhouse gases when it breaks down, the New York City Council passed Local Law 77 in 2013, mandating that the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) design, implement and evaluate a curbside organics collection pilot program. As of June 2015, the DSNY serves more than 137,000 households and 700 schools, thereby surpassing the pilot goals by 37 percent and 75 percent, respectively. This case study features the initial phases of innovation in policymaking: from crafting policy to implementing a pilot program. We begin by discussing how the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and the Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability used data to advise the City Council on the details of the organic recycling bill, considering what adjustments could be made to increase the impact. We then share how DSNY developed the organics collection program, adapting best practices from other successful programs, testing innovative strategies, and addressing challenges throughout the pilot’s implementation.

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