Town Haul Podcast | Episode 16

  • Host: Amy Koonin (Rubicon)
  • Guest: Kathryn Garcia (New York City’s Sanitation Commissioner)
  • Listen Here! 

For Town Haul host Amy Koonin, this podcast guest has one of the coolest jobs ever: New York City Sanitation Commissioner. Kathryn Garcia is a lifelong New Yorker who has worked in the NYC government for years. She’s worked in tax audits and enforcement to the city’s Department of Environmental protection to the Department of Sanitation.

Discover what being Sanitation Commissioner actually means, how waste in the Big Apple is changing, and maybe even a recommendation for a classic New York slice in the latest Town Haul recap.

On what the New York City Sanitation Commissioner job entails:

GARCIA: “I usually put it in sort of very broad buckets. One, we need to collect the 10,000 tons of refuse and the 2,000 tons of recycling every day. That, in and of itself, is a logistical challenge. Two, we enforce our task with keeping New York City clean. We use a variety of strategies, and I must say that New Yorkers make sure that I stay busy in this particular area. Sometimes, it feels like motherhood, where you’re like people just keep dropping their clean towels on the floor and I just keep picking them up.

And then, of course, there’s our responsibility for snow. That is emergency response function, and we spend a lot of time preparing for that and having our prep meetings.”

On what sparked her passion for sustainability:

GARCIA: “I actually think that I really was coming into public service before I was coming into sustainability. Public service really allows you to impact a huge number of people even when you’re a relatively junior employee. My love for the ability to be able to make change began to morph into what are the challenges that we’re confronting across the board as Americans or humankind and figuring out how to get up every day and say, “I am making a difference.”

That’s how my work started to combine public service and sustainability. It’s about serving the public and really making sure that we’re doing it in a way that it is environmentally friendly and that it makes it sustainable for the next generations.”

On the New York State Supreme Court decision to ban foam food containers:

GARCIA: “Foam will be banned for food service from businesses to use or give away starting January 1st, 2019. Then they’ll have six months of a warning period, and then we will do enforcement. It has been challenging to get that over the finish line, but we really want to see change, particularly in areas where there are other options that are recyclable and compostable, so we are using those products that do not need to be put in landfills in the long run.”

On what changes are coming to New York City in 2019:

GARCIA: “We’re going to be looking forward to figuring out how to increase all the participants in the organics program. We’re looking into other behavioral changes that we can incentivize, as well as looking to other pieces of the waste pie around textiles and some of the other things that we anticipate rolling out. We anticipate rolling out more electronics collection at the curb. We just want to continue to make it easier for everyone to do the right thing.”

On the best slice of pizza in NYC:

GARCIA: “Oh, that’s going to get me in trouble. I can’t tell you the best slice of pizza.”