Why Does Trash Collection Cost So Much in NYC?

July 24, 2014

It costs twice as much for New York City's Department of Sanitation to haul away trash than it costs private firms. Matthew Hennessey, of the City Journal, explains why.

New York City has 7,200 sanitation workers. The city of 8.3 million produces 8 million tons of trash each year, of which which the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) removes half. The other 4 million tons are handled by private trash firms -- 250 of them -- that contract with local businesses to dispose of waste.

According to the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), DSNY spends $431 per ton to collect and dispose of the city's trash, yet the private companies spend just $183 per ton. Why?

  • Private firms utilize recycling more than the DSNY. Private firms recycle 63 percent of their trash collections. DSNY, on the other hand, sends just 14 percent of its waste to recycling plants, which pay up to $25 per ton for paper recyclables.
  • DSNY workers receive unlimited sick days, productivity bonuses and shift-differential payments, as well as more days off than private employees.
  • In 2012, the average DSNY employee earned 39 percent more than the average private trash-hauling employee.
  • For a first-year DSNY employee -- including retirement benefits, health insurance, and holiday and overtime pay -- total compensation is more than $100,000. A DSNY worker with two decades of experience takes home nearly $170,000 in total compensation.

Recently, a number of city employees have received wage raises under the tenure of Mayor Bill de Blasio. As public employee groups clamor for wage increases, Hennessey asks whether New York can afford to raise the wages of the DSNY.

Source: Matthew Hennessey, "Hauling Trash in NYC for Twice the Price," Epoch Times, July 23, 2014.

 

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