Small-Building Owners Will Soon Join New York City’s War on Trash

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The city is continuing its steady campaign against its trash-bag mountains with a new rule — this time for residential garbage. The Department of Sanitation announced today that residential buildings with nine or fewer units will be required to put their trash out in bins starting in the fall of 2024. This might seem like a small number, but it covers 95 percent of residential buildings in the city and around 40 percent of residential trash. Last month, DSNY also required that all commercial businesses containerize their waste, which means that when all of these rules go into effect, 70 percent of the city’s trash will be in bins.

“This will not only shut down the all-night, all-you-can-eat rat buffet and the odors of stinking trash in the summer, but also the look and feel of the streets,” Sanitation commissioner Jessica Tisch said. “There’s no reason that in 2023 New York City should still have the moniker of trash city.”

While buildings can use any sealed container that’s 55 gallons or less for now, the city will require the use of official NYC bins — that have yet to be designed — starting in the summer of 2026. (They’ll cost property owners no more than $50.) When that happens, trash trucks will also get an upgrade. DSNY says it will retrofit or replace its collection trucks with tippers so that they can mechanically collect the official bins. The department will have the option to suspend the mandate in the winter if there is heavy snowfall, since bags are easier to maneuver in those conditions.

It makes sense to start with lower-density buildings, which won’t require massive bins to hold all their trash. “They’ll be replacing bags of trash on the sidewalk and in fact take up less space,” Tisch said. For bigger buildings, which produce 60 percent of the city’s residential trash, DSNY is currently piloting fixed street containers in Harlem (which, for the most part, look like regular dumpsters) and developing a prototype for the automated side-loader truck needed for collection. These types of containers will likely require repurposing existing parking spots — a small price to pay for not having to step on rats every night.

Small-Building Owners Will Soon Join NYC’s War on Trash