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Project Type
UTRC Faculty Development Mini-grants
Project Dates
09/01/2011 - 07/31/2013
Principal Investigators
Project Status

New York City’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability issued an updated version of PlaNYC, the city’s comprehensive long range plan to improve the environment and quality of life for future New Yorkers, in April 2011. Among many goals stated in the plan, the city aims to divert 75 percent of solid waste from landfills by 2030.1 A primary initiative identified to achieve this goal is to increase material reuse in the city. Materials that are no longer needed by individuals and businesses can be redistributed to others in need rather than placed in a landfill. Having recognized the potential for material reuse in the city, the Department of Sanitation established the NYC WasteMatch service in 1997. WasteMatch, which is operated by the NYC Materials Exchange Development Program (MEDP) at the City College of New York, provides a web-based matching service to find potential users for donated materials. Currently, the MEDP includes 53 non-profit and for-profit partner agencies2, and since its inception, WasteMatch has diverted more than 25,000 tons of material from landfills.3 A broad range of diverted materials include books, computers, bicycles, office furniture, and building materials. The potential for continued growth in the volume of diverted material is severely constrained by logistical challenges in transporting donated goods. Materials can only be donated for reuse if: 1) a secondary user can be identified, 2) that secondary user has available transportation resources to move a load, and 3) the secondary user can meet the sometimes strict time constraints of the donating agency to make an exchange. The transportation options available to reuse agencies vary considerably. While a few agencies have their own fleet of trucks available for goods exchange, many others with limited staff and monetary resources are required to hire commercial carriers, to rent vehicles, or even to rely on volunteer drivers to pick up donated goods. Smaller agencies, whose pick-up needs are infrequent or irregular, are often required to hire a carrier or vehicle for an individual movement at the last minute, usually at a high cost. If vehicles or drivers are not available at the necessary time, the opportunity for reuse is lost. At the same time that material reuse agencies are in need of freight capacity, there are a large number of commercial trucks operating in the city with excess capacity. According to the NYC Department of Transportation, more than 100,000 freight deliveries are made every day in Manhattan alone.4 Many of the trucks delivering goods to city destinations return to their origin empty, leading to inefficient operations for the carrier as well as for the city’s highway network. This empty backhaul capacity could potentially be utilized to meet the needs of the material reuse sector without increasing the total volume of freight traffic on New York City’s streets. The goal of this research is to explore the opportunity for innovative partnering between material reuse agencies and commercial carriers to leverage available freight capacity to enable material exchange. This project will examine potential individual or joint contracting structures to allow for more reliable freight availability to reuse agencies, as well as potential incentives to encourage commercial carriers to offer low cost or even no-cost freight transportation services to these agencies. A survey of the reuse agencies currently participating in WasteMatch will be performed to characterize the transportation needs of the reuse sector. A second survey of commercial carriers will also be performed to explore the availability of freight capacity, to identify appropriate incentives, and to examine any operational or regulatory barriers that might inhibit potential partnering structures. The transportation needs of the material reuse sector have been relatively unexplored in academic literature. This study will provide a synthesis of the state of the practice for transportation logistics in the material reuse sector and will provide an analysis of feasible alternatives for partnering between commercial carriers and material reuse agencies. Ultimately, the results of this study will serve as a source of information for cities looking to increase material reuse and as a basis for development of a pilot partnership program here in New York City.

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