Statement of Mr. Randy M. Mastro
Deputy Mayor for Operations for the City of New York
Environment and Public Works Committee
The Interstate Movement of Municipal Solid Waste
March 18, 1997

Mr. Chairman, Senator Baucus, Senator Moynihan, and members of the Committee, my name is Randy Mastro and I am New York City's Deputy Mayor for Operations. With me today is John Doherty, Commissioner of the City's Department of Sanitation.

On behalf of Mayor Giuliani, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address this Committee on an issue so important to New York City's day-to-day operations: the interstate transport of solid waste. I understand that the decision by Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki to close the City's Fresh Kills Landfill has prompted some to question whether Congress should revisit limiting the transport of municipal solid waste across state lines.

The Congressional debate surrounding waste export long preceded the City's decision to close Fresh Kills. It would, therefore, not be fair to cite the closure of Fresh Kills as reason for the passage of interstate waste legislation.

The decision to close Fresh Kills by December 31, 2001 merely expedites the City's plan to embark on a new, more environmentally sound course, in the management of its solid waste. We want this Committee to know that we will do so responsibly and appropriately, with due respect for our neighbors.

Through export of the City's residential waste, we are seeking nothing more than the ability to exercise the right that has already been exercised by cities and states across the country -- responsible, efficient and environmentally sound solid waste management through the private sector. Municipal solid waste is a commodity in interstate commerce. The proposed business partnerships arising from NYC's waste export will benefit importer and exporter alike. Clearly, there are many other jurisdictions which share our approach, since 47 of the 50 states actually export waste, and 45 states are importers.

As a result, many jurisdictions already require the execution of Host Community Agreements before exported waste can be received. The Fresh Kills closure plan recognizes the importance of such agreements. It requires that our municipal solid waste be disposed of only at Host Community Agreement sites. There seems to be no need for legislation to require us to do that which we already require of ourselves.

Although the closure of Fresh Kills affects only the City's residential waste, the private market is as essential to the management of that waste as it is to commercial waste. Commercial waste has been exported from New York City by the private sector for several years. For many communities and states, solid waste is an important revenue stream. We believe that each local community should have the right to accept or reject the disposal of solid waste --not by federal legislation but by locally-decided Host Community Agreements.

In developing Host Community Agreements, importing communities will negotiate benefits most suited to their needs. At the same time exporting communities will rely on private-sector bidding to select the vendor offering the best overall price. Clearly, senders and receivers will enter into business arrangements that are in their own best interest.

In keeping with these principles, New York City has not pre-determined where its solid waste will be disposed. Instead, the City has taken steps to assure that each bidder have all requisite environmental permits and a Host Community Agreement verifying that the receiving jurisdiction has approved the operation of the facility and agreed to accept the solid waste to be imported, often resulting in a direct financial benefit to the receiving jurisdiction. Further, the existing authority of states in permitting solid waste facilities in accordance with accepted regulatory mandates and local zoning ordinances, suggests that there is less reason for intervention in the form of federal export restriction legislation.

When the Mayor and the Governor decided to close the Fresh Kills Landfill by December 31, 2001, a commitment was made to stop shipping garbage to Fresh Kills by that date. There will be a phased-in diminution of landfilling at Fresh Kills. The City will begin with the export of up to 1800 tons per day of residential waste from the borough of the Bronx by July 1997. The City has received 6 competitive bids for this waste. The bidders propose seven different end destinations in five different states. Two of those seven sites are within the state of New York. The bidders, in combination, offered three times the capacity needed for this wastestream. It is encouraging that the bids include disposal sites within the state. We will urge the State to develop even more capacity, in part because transportation is a major element of the export cost.

Once again, it is private sector demand that will shape the future availability of disposal sites. Indeed, according to a recent article in the New York Times, officials from New Jersey and Connecticut have said that they would welcome New York's waste because it makes good economic sense. Robert E. Wright, president of the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority, which oversees and partially owns incinerators in the state, told the New York Times: "I guess we probably have a more favorable eye on New York than some more distant states." The New York Times further reported: "In New Jersey where counties have spent millions of dollars to build incinerators, local officials generally are eager for any guaranteed flow of trash. If anything, imported garbage at a plant like the Newark incinerator's is more desirable than local trash because the city gets a 10 percent share of the fee charged."

The cost of building environmentally-sound disposal sites, and ensuring their compliance with EPA standards, has fostered the creation of large, well-run, state-of-the-art regional facilities. These facilities typically are efficient and offer a favorable disposal cost structure. Cost and efficiency will continue to drive the private sector. And the free market will continue to serve those communities willing to accept a disposal facility in exchange for some host benefit, such as revenue, lower taxes, and even lower local disposal fees.

New York City will enter the private disposal market in a responsible manner, armed with the benefits already derived from an ambitious recycling program. We are the only large city in America that requires 100% of its households to recycle, including those residents in multi-family dwellings, and we recycle a higher percentage of household waste than any other large city in America. Nevertheless, we are going to do even more. In the City's recent financial plan, the Mayor has included over $76 million additional dollars for the expansion of recycling programs, including new materials, increased education and outreach, consultant review of initiatives that might foster better compliance, new equipment to improve recycling efficiency, increased enforcement as appropriate, and residential backyard composting aimed at reducing the waste that is generated.

This year alone, with new initiatives tied to Fresh Kills closure, the City expects to increase recycling by 350 - 700 tons per day. Including construction and demolition debris, the City currently recycles more than 4,000 tons per day or 26% of its wastestream. Thus, with these new recycling initiatives we aim to increase our recycling program by nearly 20%.

Moreover, we are aggressively pursuing waste reduction strategies to reduce the daily tonnages of waste by 50 - 100 tons per day by the end of this year. For example, the Mayor recently issued a directive to all city agencies to reduce the waste generated and to establish measurement indicators by which the agencies will be held accountable.

New York City residents are huge consumers of goods manufactured and shipped from other states. And the waste generated by packaging materials is significant. For that reason, federal legislation limiting packaging or requiring manufacturers to use some percentage of recycled content in their packaging material would have a tremendous -- and measurable -- impact on the quantity of exported solid waste. However, despite our best efforts at waste reduction and recycling, a substantial portion of our waste will still require disposal outside the City.

It is our expectation that by advancing waste reduction and recycling initiatives over the next five years, the City will reduce the amount of export. We are confident that the capacity and desire to accommodate this waste exists, and I reiterate that our City's residential waste will only be sent to communities that have agreed to receive it through Host Community Agreements.

Again, on behalf of Mayor Giuliani, I would like to express my appreciation for this opportunity to explain New York City's position and to underscore our interest in continuing to work with the Committee and its staff on solid waste management legislation. New York City and New York State have decided to close the Fresh Kills Landfill by December 31, 2001. We will implement that decision in accordance with all environmental regulations and in a responsible and appropriate manner, with due respect to our neighbors. By requiring Host Community Agreements, we believe that we will accomplish that aim.

I and Commissioner Doherty will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.