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Department of Sanitation

It’s Starting: City Unveils Trash Containerization for Smaller Buildings

If you're in a building with nine or fewer units, get ready for wheelie bins for trash.

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

More blocks will look like this one, seen in Brooklyn’s Columbia Waterfront District, garbage day.

New Yorkers living in smaller residential buildings will have to set out their garbage in lidded bins starting in a year, an important move to get rid of the heaps of rat-attracting plastic bags on sidewalks — but Mayor Adams isn't yet moving the trash from pedestrian space into the curb.

The new rule kicks in next fall for buildings with nine or fewer units, which covers about 41 percent of the city’s housing units and one-fifth of the total 44 million pounds of waste New Yorkers and city businesses generate every day, according to Department of Sanitation officials. 

Individual wheelie bins won’t work for larger buildings, however, and the Adams administration is still planning for the larger, shared enclosures to be the street — and the DSNY is currently piloting just such a scheme, to great success, on 10 blocks and at 14 schools in West Harlem.

“We’re going to have a whole lot more to say soon about the 10-plus-unit buildings, an important piece of which is going to be the stationary on-street containers,” DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch told Streetsblog in a Tuesday briefing. 

DSNY also published a request for proposals Wednesday for a vendor for what will become the official city garbage bin. The agency will retrofit hundreds of its collection trucks with mechanical tippers that fit these standardized bins, so New York’s Strongest will no longer have to rely on the outdated practice of hauling trash by hand.  

Property owners can use their own bins for the beginning of the rollout, but they will eventually have to switch to the municipal containers by summer 2026. The containers will run between $45 for a 20 gallon bin up to $80 for a 65 gallon container, which is a better price than you'd get in stores, according to officials.

Only garbage has to go in the containers, recycling, which is far less enticing to the mayor's hated rodent, will still be in bags on the sidewalk for the short term.

Sanitation has been chipping away at six decades of history of New Yorkers tossing their bagged garbage onto the sidewalk. Storing trash in bags was illegal in the city until the late 1960s, when the Health Department mandated Oscar-the-Grouch-style metal bins. But during a Sanitation strike in 1968, the bins overflowed, and the city shifted to plastic bags, which officials saw as preferable to the loud steel cans.

The new rules will mirror a recent change for commercial trash, which accounts for about half of the city’s total waste stream, and advocates previously questioned whether those changes could crowd the city's congested sidewalks.

A nine-unit building would need six to eight wheeled bins, which is an improvement over a heap of black bags, Tisch said, but she said moving them into the street was not a good use of space.

“It is standard practice around the world to put wheelie bins out on the sidewalk rather than in the parking lane,” said the city's trash queen. “We also think that it would be wasteful to have a single individual bin on the street [on certain blocks]."

Buildings with between 10 to 20 units may also use the new official city bins, according to the RFP.

Sanitation officials previously estimated that for a slightly larger 21-unit, five story building they would have to have a whopping 40 containers to fit its garbage, but that also included containers for organics and recycling, the latter of which won't be required to go in bins yet.

Just four larger shared containers in two former parking spaces in the curb could take the same amount of waste without crowding out the sidewalk.

Here's what DSNY found it could look like with a 21-unit building using bins on the sidewalk, or containers in the street. Graphics: DSNY

One advocate suggested still earmarking certain locations along a block in the curb lane for wheeling bins, which would consolidate them in a few spots like the larger shared containers, while making them easier for Sanitation workers to pick up. 

"[Sanitaiton’s plan] is better than the bags, but it still kind of doesn’t reallocate the curbside the way it should be,” said Christine Berthet, who founded the pedestrian advocacy group CHEKPEDS. “While the bags will be easy to move between cars, containers will be much harder. And therefore having them in the parking lane would be a major benefit.”

Berthet showed how that could be done when she set up a guerilla enclosure on a block in Hells Kitchen three years ago. 

DSNY in May released a monumental study of trash containerization that showed that the city’s seemingly insurmountable trash mountains could be containerized on 89 percent of residential blocks, which would necessitate removing about 150,000 street parking spaces, or 10 percent of those spaces citywide.

On half of the streets with low-rise housing, the agency suggested these wheeled individual bins, while for another 39 percent of blocks of midsize buildings larger shared bins in the curb are more suitable. 

Another 11 percent of the city in even denser areas with narrow streets, such as the Financial District, would require taking more than 25 percent of the street parking on a given block, which DSNY found unfeasible. 

Tisch vowed that on-street containers are very much still in the works.

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