open_resource : ideas, points of view
and solutions from the actors of the resource revolution

← Back Solutions  

How New York intends to become the “most sustainable city in the world”


After economic growth, tourism, and quality of life, sustainability is little by little becoming the new competition ground for large cities. Fighting global warming, protecting resources better… these are as much economic and social necessities as they are vital for boosting a city’s image. New York, which is not yet identified closely with these challenges, intends to make sustainability one of its strategic goals, driven by its new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who recently unveiled his strategic vision for the city: “OneNYC”.

Extract from

To become the world champion of sustainability is one of the four “OneNYC” challenges, along with economic growth, social equity, and resiliency in the face of climate change. The municipality is focusing on six main objectives: in addition to reducing greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050, improving air quality, rehabilitating industrial wasteland, and adding more green spaces, the city hopes to concentrate its efforts on waste and water management.

In terms of waste, New York has adopted the “Zero Waste” target recently headlined by the city of San Francisco. A number of measures go into achieving this. First, encouraging composting by extending curbside organic waste collections city-wide; currently this is available for 100,000 homes. A waste-to-energy recovery plant will also be built to turn up to 500 tons of organic waste a day, via anaerobic digestion, into methane for heating.
Another measure is to create, by 2020, single-stream recycling for other household waste (paper, cardboard, glass, rigid plastic, etc.) which so far is treated in two separate streams. The city intends to make the most of the latest technological advances in the waste industry to remove the selective sorting bottleneck among New Yorkers who currently only recycle a mere 42% a year.
The municipality also hopes to work with manufacturers and distributors to accelerate product recycling. The city wants, at the same time, to ban certain non-recyclable materials (expanded polystyrene foam, disposable plastic bags, etc.) and encourage the reuse and recycling of fabrics and electronic waste. Another project is to introduce the polluter-pays principle by rewarding, with tax reductions, the most diligent residents who discard less and recycle more. It is one measure already used in the U.S., for example by the city of San José, which mayor de Blasio says could reduce the amount of waste collected by 30%.

Extract from

The city is no less ambitious in terms of water management—a stance explained as much by its geographical position as by its infrastructures. New York has a very extensive and aging wastewater treatment system (7,500 miles of sewage pipes, 14 sewage plants, 5 billion liters of wastewater treated daily) and the largest reserve of unfiltered water in the world (one billion liters of drinking water a day). The municipality has to tackle major projects to reduce flood risk, secure water supplies, improve stormwater management and limit the pollution of runoff.
The city also has to cope regularly with extreme weather episodes (such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and freezing winter temperatures) which create additional complexities for water management. In the winter of 2014, SUEZ environment North America distributed advice in New York State to help consumers keep pipes from freezing and stock up emergency supplies of drinking water, to cope with potential cuts in services.
Last but not least, the city hopes to launch a vast plan to renovate and build street fountains to limit the consumption of sugary drinks and, in line with “Zero Waste”, to encourage New Yorkers to fill their waterbottles instead of buying more plastic bottles.