The Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board began meeting in January 2018, motivated by a desire to ensure that the borough of Queens was contributing to the broader New York City conversation about how what many call “waste” can instead be seen as a resource. Our goal is to support the Borough President and our elected officials in moving Queens to a zero-waste (0x30) future in which the products and foods we use and consume are handled responsibly throughout their lifecycle from production to transportation and distribution to discard.

Our group began meeting monthly, first at people’s homes, then in public spaces such as restaurants, bars, nonprofit organizations, and government offices. Our group builds on the history of an earlier QSWAB, which was active from approximately 1985 to 2011. As part of re-activating this citizen’s advisory board, we first consulted members of that group whom we could find to learn more about the group’s history, mission, and impact. Although sadly, no written records from their work exist, the oral histories of these members informed the present group’s focus.

The legal precedent for the borough having a SWAB can be found in the City’s Administrative Code (§ Title 16-318), which specifies the SWAB’s function as responsibility for submitting to the Borough President a recycling plan and annually advising him or her on…

1. annual recycling and reduction goals and the methods proposed to achieve such goals;

2. means to encourage community participation in the recycling program; and;

3. means to promote the recycling program and educate the public with regard to the program. In each borough, the citizens’ board shall assume all the responsibilities and functions of the borough’s citizens’ advisory committee on resource recovery.

The Administrative Code (§ Title 16-317) also lays out the requirements of SWAB membership, which include at least 20 Queens residents representing a diverse range of constituencies including community boards, recycling and carting industry members, environmental organizations, government agencies, labor and business groups, property owners, tenant organizations and members of the general public.

Similar to Community Boards, SWAB members are appointed by the Borough President with input from local elected officials. They serve two-year terms.

Currently, ManhattanBrooklyn, Queens, and Bronx have active SWABs.

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