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Zero Waste Challenge

The Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge, in its first year, was created to help large waste-generating businesses—hotels, arenas, food wholesalers and manufacturers, commercial building owners, and others strive to reach zero waste to landfill and incineration.

The Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge launched in February 2016 and runs until June, 2016.

Press Release

View the Mayor's Zero Waste Challenge Final Report.

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About the Challenge

Building on the City’s ambitious goal of sending zero waste to landfill by 2030, the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge (ZWC) invites New York City businesses to match the City’s zero waste goals by challenging them to divert at least 50 percent of their waste from landfill and incineration by June 15, 2016. By participating, businesses are role models for others in their industry and are recognized by the Mayor’s Office as leaders in environmentally sustainable waste management. ZWC participants are also required to donate leftover edible food to local charities to help end hunger in NYC.

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The City is making significant efforts in reaching its zero waste goal through reforms to residential waste management and has expanded those efforts to include commercial entities.

All businesses in NYC are required to recycle metal, glass, plastic, beverage cartons, paper and cardboard, and ensure to the best of their ability that these recyclable materials are properly handled by their private carter. The City published new business recycling rules in the City Record on February 5, 2016, and mailed official notices outlining the requirements to all businesses.

Further, beginning July 19, 2016, under the new business organics rules, certain New York City businesses are required by law to separate their organic waste for beneficial use (composting, anaerobic digestion or other).

Organic Waste

Establishments covered by the Commercial Organics Rules

  • All food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms
  • All food service vendors in arenas and stadiums with seating capacity of at least 15,000 people
  • Food manufacturers with a floor area of at least 25,000 square feet
  • Food wholesalers with a floor area of at least 20,000 square feet

Businesses covered by this regulation are given the option to arrange for collection by a private carter, transport organic waste themselves, or process the material on site.

The NYC Department of Sanitation has created materials and trainings to assist businesses in complying with the recycling and organics separation requirements, and to encourage additional waste prevention efforts. Learn more about Zero Waste and businesses.

The ZWC, which began in mid-February and will conclude in mid-June 2016, will help businesses that are affected by these new rules increase their recycling and organics separation and diversion efforts by challenging them to divert as much material from landfill and incineration as possible.  Participants  were provided with training materials, a customized monthly waste tracking report, case studies provided by experts, and the opportunity to attend monthly workshops led by the Mayor’s Office featuring guest speakers in the field of waste reduction and diversion.


Participants will be recognized for their achievements at the end of the challenge including but not limited to diverting 50%, 75% or 90% of waste from landfill and incineration, the most donated food to local charities, the most creative source reduction strategy and the most improved diversion rate during the course of the challenge, and the best new waste reduction or diversion program started during the challenge. While we ask that participants commit to 50% diversion of waste from landfill and incineration, there are no penalties for not achieving this waste reduction milestone. Our efforts are rooted in helping businesses manage their waste more sustainably and providing resources and technical assistance as needed.

If you have questions about the Zero WasteChallenge please contact Sarah Currie-Halpern and Kate Gouin by email.

Zero Waste Challenge Report Cover

Zero Waste Challenge Participants

There are 39 locations  (representing 31 businesses) participating in the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge. Participants  proudly hail from all five of the City’s boroughs and are leaders in their efforts to help the City reach its zero waste goals.

Since February 2016, these businesses have been closely monitoring their waste streams and striving to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill and incineration, as well as amplified efforts to reduce overall waste generation. While the target is at least 50% diversion of waste from landfill and incineration, many businesses have already surpassed this benchmark and are truly zero waste leaders in their field!

Results of the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge will be announced in late June 2016.

Official Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge Participants:

ABC Inc. (Disney)






Barclays Center


Citi Field


Cleaver Co.


COOKFOXArchitects (SL Green Realty Corp.)


D'Arrigo Bros.


Dig Inn Seasonal Market (1 location)


The Durst Organization (8 locations)


Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Office (GSA Building)




Great Performances Catering


Hilton Garden Inn

Staten Island

Hyatt Place Flushing


Katzman Produce


Le Bernardin


Le Pain Quotidien (1 location)


Madame Secretary




Momofuku Milk Bar (1 location)


Natural Resource Defense Council


The New School


The Peninsula


The Pierre


Starrett-Lehigh Building – RXR Realty


sweetgreen (1 location)


Top Banana


Viacom (SL Green Realty Corp.)


The Waldorf Astoria


Whole Foods (2 locations)


Participants were acknowledged for their accomplishments during the Challenge. Categories of awards went to:

Reaching 50 % of waste diverted from landfill and incineration

  • Disney ABC Television Group
  • Citi Field
  • COOKFOX Architects
  • Durst Organization, 1133 Avenue of Americas
  • Durst Organization, 4 Times Square
  • Durst Organization, 655 3rd Avenue
  • Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island
  • Le Bernardin
  • Momofuku Milk Bar
  • Great Performances
  • Peninsula New York
  • The Pierre New York
  • USEPA, Region 2 Office
  • Whole Foods Market, Upper East Side
  • Whole Foods Market, Chelsea

Reaching 75 % of waste diverted from landfill and incineration

  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Cleaver Co.
  • Dig Inn Seasonal Market, 509 Manida St
  • Durst Organization, 1 Bryant Park
  • Durst Organization, 114 W 47th Street
  • Durst Organization, 733 3rd Avenue
  • Etsy
  • Madam Secretary
  • Natural Resource Defense Council
  • Top Banana
  • Viacom
  • Sweetgreen, Columbia University

Reaching 90 % of waste diverted from landfill and incineration

  • D'Arrigo Bros. of New York
  • Durst Organization, 201 & 205 E 42nd Street

Best new program inspired by the Zero Waste Challenge

  • RXR Realty Starett-Leigh Building’s new organics collection program (free to all tenants!)

Greatest overall waste diversion rate from landfill and incineration (across all participants)

  • Arrigo Bros. of New York- 95 %
  • Durst Organization, 201 E 42nd Street- 95 %

Greatest amount of food donated to local charities and organizations to feed hungry New Yorkers

  • Arrigo Bros. of New York - 172 Tons

Greatest overall waste diversion rate from landfill and incineration by category of business

  • Arenas: Citi Field – 57 %
  • Commercial tenants and building owners: Durst Organization, 201 E. 42nd Street – 95%
  • Food wholesalers, grocers and caterers: D’Arrigo Bros. of New York – 95 %
  • Hotels: The Peninsula New York 66% & Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island – 66 %
  • Office tenants: Viacom – 87 %
  • Restaurants/Caterers: Dig Inn Seasonal Market – 88 %
  • TV production: Madam Secretary – 87 %

Most improved diversion rate from month one to month four

  • Le Pain Quotidien- 10 Fifth Avenue location

Most successful or innovative source reduction effort

  • Etsy
  • A poster thanking all participants

    Participant’s Waste Haulers & Consultants and Food Donation Collectors:

    Action Environmental Services

    Avid Waste System, Inc.

    City Harvest

    Boro Wide Recycling

    Earth Angel

    Filco Carting

    Flag Container Service Inc.

    Five Star Carting Inc.

    Great Forest Sustainability Solutions


    Mr. T Carting

    Project Hospitality

    Quality Waste Services Corp.

    Recycle Track Systems

    Rescuing Leftover Cuisine

    Rock and Wrap it Up!

    Royal Waste Services

    Sanitation Salvage Corp.

    TV & Film Support Services


    A poster thanking all food donation collectors and consultants