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Mayor Adams, Sanitation Commissioner Tisch Announce Next Phase of War on Rats: All Businesses Must Place Trash in Containers

September 19, 2023

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New Rule, Beginning March 2024, Follows Successful Phase-In of Containerization
Requirements for Food-Related Businesses, Chain Stores

Full Commercial Containerization Will Get 20 Million Pounds of Trash
— Half of City’s Waste — off NYC Streets Every Day

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner Jessica Tisch today announced the next phase of the Adams administration’s war on rats: a new plan to get more black trash bags off of city sidewalks by requiring all businesses to put trash in containers. Advancing the administration’s efforts to “Get Stuff Clean,” reclaim public space, and improve quality of life for all New Yorkers, DSNY today proposed a new rule under which all commercial trash — approximately 20 million pounds per day — must be in a secure, lidded container beginning March 1, 2024.

This rule continues the Adams administration’s work of moving towards full containerization citywide, and follows an announcement earlier this summer where Mayor Adams and Commissioner Tisch announced an expansion of containerization rules to get black trash bags off city streets. The administration’s efforts over the last 20 months are working, with rat sightings down 20 percent this summer compared to last year and down 45 percent in the city’s Rat Mitigation Zones.

“We’ve declared that rats are Public Enemy Number One — but we’re not stopping there; we’re also going after the black trash bags that litter our streets, aiding and abetting rodents,” said Mayor Adams. “That’s why, starting next spring, we’re requiring every New York City business to put out their trash in containers. That’s 20 million pounds of black bags and rat buffets off our streets — every single day. Our streets will look cleaner and smell cleaner across all five boroughs, and New Yorkers won’t have to dodge trash mountains or scurrying rats as they’re walking.”

“Today’s rule marks a historic change for the cleanliness of our sidewalks and another battle won in the war on rats,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “Every single New York City business will be required to containerize their trash — that’s 20 million pounds of waste a day that will now be neatly secured in bins instead of piled onto the sidewalk in leaky bags.”

“The notion that the greatest city in the world could not move its trash into wheelie bins was always patently absurd. But that’s the type of thinking that allowed the rats to thrive and our streets to reek for over 50 years,” said DSNY Commissioner Tisch. “In less than one year since the effort began, the Adams administration will have moved half of all of New York City’s trash — nearly 20 million pounds a day — from black bags into bins. And we’re going hard after the rest. Stay tuned…”

“Getting 20 million pounds of trash a day off our streets and into containers is a huge step towards our vision for a public realm New Yorkers deserve,” said Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu. “There’s no reason why New Yorkers should have to dodge leaky, stinky trash mountains on the way to work, and thanks to DSNY’s hard work, we’re putting those days in our rear-view mirror.”

“Taking away rats’ access to food is paramount to sustained rat mitigation,” said Director of Citywide Rodent Mitigation Kathleen Corradi. “The leadership from DSNY to ‘Get Stuff Clean’ and the rules to containerize waste are integral to a rat free New York City!”

The Adams administration has rapidly implemented a phased approach to containerization, including:

  • Since July 30, 2023, all food-related businesses — including restaurants, caterers, grocery stores, delis, and bodegas, among others — have been required to containerize their waste. This rule covers approximately 20 percent of the city’s businesses, a subset that produces an outsized amount of the kind of waste that attracts rats.
  • During a one-month warning period, DSNY issued over 22,000 warnings to businesses covered under the rule that were not following the new guidance.
  • On September 5, 2023, the rule expanded to cover all chain businesses with five or more locations in the city — regardless of what they sell — bringing the share of businesses covered to 25 percent.
  • A pilot of residential containerization and mechanized collection is currently underway at 14 schools and on 10 residential blocks in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan.
  • An approximately 100-page report published by DSNY this past spring, “The Future of Trash,” provided the first-ever detailed, block-by-block analysis of what it would take to get black bags of trash off city streets. 

When today’s proposed rule takes effect, 100 percent of businesses in the city will be required to containerize their trash — covering about half of all trash in the five boroughs, with the other half being residential.

Under today’s proposed rule, businesses will have substantial flexibility on the type and location of containers they utilize, provided they have a lid and secure sides that keep rats out. Containers may be stored either inside or within three feet of the property line. The proposed timeline gives businesses nearly six months’ notice before the new rule takes effect.

“New York City’s rats are notoriously relentless, but thanks to the ongoing efforts of Mayor Eric Adams and DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch, their hold on our city stops here,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat. “Addressing rats in our communities has taken a whole of community approach, including businesses responsible for maintaining commercial spaces and ensuring proper containment of trash in these public spaces. Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to winning the war against rats and ending their infestation across our city.”

“Mayor Adams and Commissioner Tisch’s commitment to a cleaner, safer New York is commendable,” said New York State Senator Luis Sepúlveda. “This next phase in the War on Rats not only improves our public spaces but symbolizes a holistic approach to urban cleanliness. By removing 20 million pounds of trash from our streets daily, we are prioritizing the health, safety, and pride of every New Yorker. Together, we forge ahead towards a city free from the menace of rats and the hazards of uncontained waste.” 

“Since the onset of the pandemic, one of the top concerns of my constituents has been the scourge of rats on streets, in parks, and even in buildings,” said New York State Assemblymember Robert Carroll. “I commend Mayor Adams for embracing containerization, following the proven best practices of other great cities like Barcelona and Stockholm. The use of containers will reduce loose trash and in turn lower the number of rats, making New York City a healthier, more attractive place.”

“Mayor Adams’ latest salvo in his War on Rats echoes a passage in Sun Tzu’s Art of War: if the enemy is well supplied with food, the clever combatant can starve him out,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “The mayor is that clever combatant, choking off the food supply of our rats. Requiring all businesses to containerize waste takes millions of pounds of rodent fuel off our streets each day, rendering rats unable to go forth and multiply. We will have eight thousand tons less waste on our sidewalks each year. That goes a long way to making our city safer, cleaner, and more inviting to all.”

“Our city produces millions of pounds of trash daily, and we need strong enforcement to ensure our streets are clean, public health is not impacted, and our constituents can benefit from an improved quality of life,” said New York City Council Member Carmen De La Rosa. “Our Department of Sanitation and Commissioner Tisch have done an extraordinary amount of enforcement, data collection, and adaptive changes that have visibly positive effects on our streetscapes. We will continue to assist our local businesses in the transition and look forward to discussions about additional sanitary measures we can implement to reduce trash on our streets.”

“We applaud DSNY and the mayor’s office for prioritizing accessibility of our sidewalks by expanding trash containerization for all commercial businesses,” said Elana Ehrenberg, director of strategic partnerships, Design Trust for Public Space. “These initial pilots have shown how we can better utilize our curbs to reclaim public space for people, not trash. This expansion will make our city cleaner and make moving through our city’s streets easier for all New Yorkers.”

“AIA New York supports Mayor Adams’ efforts to reduce commercial trash on the city’s streets and sidewalks,” said Jesse Lazar, executive director, American Institute of Architects New York (AIA New York). “We are excited to continue working with the administration to implement strong design for trash containerization which can improve the public realm and quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

“We applaud Mayor Adams, Commissioner Tisch, and Chief Public Realm Officer Ya-Ting Liu for making a great leap in cleaning up our city streets,” said Daniel McPhee, executive director, Urban Design Forum. “We support the city’s phase-in approach and are eager to support the city in working equitably with the small business community to meet these new mandates.”


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