Grayson, a twenty-one-year DSNY veteran, has served as Acting Commissioner since September. 2020. Prior to his appointment, Grayson most recently served as a four-star chief and Director of the Bureau of Cleaning and Collection in September of 2017. Commissioner Grayson has held a range of positions throughout the Department. He was Operations Chief overseeing snow removal during the 2016 Jonas Blizzard, the largest snow storm in New York City history.
As Director of the Bureau of Cleaning and Collection, Grayson oversaw day-to-day operations, including the collection, recycling and disposal of more than 12,000 tons of waste per day and efforts to keep the city’s communities healthy, safe and clean. He has implemented new technologies to improve snow removal and reform front-line operations, and he has been a leader in the Department’s implementation of the City’s aggressive zero-waste goals.
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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian. I am so honored to have with us today, Commissioner Ed Grayson of the New York City Department of Sanitation. Welcome to the Impact Podcast, Edward.
Edward Grayson: Thank you so much for having me John. It is a pleasure to be here today.
John: And this is so much fun for me. I’m sitting in Fresno today. You’re sitting in New York City, but it is like 2 Queens guys getting together and having a conversation over a New York City cup of coffee. This is a real honor because you are doing such great work, and for our listeners who have not had a chance to get to know you yet or meet you, this story was just in The New York Times, such a wonderful story. He always wanted to be a garbage man, now he is the Commissioner. I would love you to just say in your own words, growing up in Ridgewood, what did that mean you always wanted to be a garbage man? How did that even happen? And how did you end up where you did today at?
Edward: Thank you for that. Yeah, It is pretty interesting. So, the reason why I always wanted to be a garbage man is basically it starts out familial. My dad was a garbage man. When I was growing up in Queens, especially around anywhere, garbage man was an okay term. It is not a joke. I’m an engineer. My dad, in my neighborhood call him the garbage man, and know what, it had no negative connotation to it. It was okay.
So, my dad worked for the Department of Sanitation as a garbage man, and the interesting thing about it is that it’s they kind of, to paraphrase that in the story is at some point, I was in the fourth grade and the teacher, she went around the room, a very nice room and she asked everybody what they want to be when they grow up. You could imagine a little Johnny wants to be an astronaut and wants to be a baseball player, wants to be an international superstar and they get to me and I stand up very proudly I said, “I will be a garbage man”. And by the way, I got to tell you that it was an interesting exchange because, in fairness to her, I think that she may have wanted to take it in a different way just in case I was self-limiting. She probably had the best of intentions except I don’t think she realized she was about to sort of insult my dad. So she says “Well, why would you want to be that?” And I said, “Oh well”. So, then I answered this “My dad is a garbageman”. She said “Well, maybe there is something…”, like she kind of was trying to lead it down a path of well, “…Maybe there’s something else you want to be”. I was like “No!”. So, we had this interesting exchange that you know kind of set the tone for that whole school year. It was like, “What are you talking about? What is wrong with that?”. And from then on, I really did.
I always… Naturally, I love my father. But I I love the trucks. I love everything that they were doing. And then interestingly enough, everybody in my neighborhood, everybody in Queens and my section of Queens any way, at some point you got to a certain age where you were close to about turning 18 and everybody in the neighborhood’s father worked the city or civil servant and you have to take the civil service exams in New York. So, you want to work for the city, you have to take the test. That’s how you get on. As a rite of passage, you would go every Wednesday’s, you have to buy the newspaper and look for every test that was going to come out, and you would wait and you get the temporal list of when they are going to be. So, I signed up to take all the exams, every single agency, transit, everything, you name it, I took the test. When the test came out I took it, and I got a score that was in the eligible pool so that tranche, and, lo and behold, a new career was one. At that point in time, my father had already been retired for almost a decade.
John: Oh wow.
Edward: So, I never got to share the joint temple. We have people now, we have legacies on the job the same way that like the police department has legacies and far behind. We have a lot of that. I never shared a truck shift so to speak, with my dad. He’d already been gone. One of the best pieces of advice he ever gave me when I started my journey with the department was, I said, “I am on your job.” he said “No. You are on your job. My job is over” I said, “Oh wow”. It sets the tone. There was never any expectation. I just knew that he works so hard, he went in every day and he was so dedicated and that’s really how I set the tone there.
In addition to him, when recycling started in New York City, the Department of Sanitation actually at the forefront. They started to bring on community outreach people and my mother, oddly enough, in a completely separate and parallel track, because my parents are divorced, so they were already in a separate household. So, my mother applied to the Department of Sanitation to become a community outreach person, go out and teach people how to recycle in the mid-late 80s. So my mother was on the team of people that actually went door to door, delivering the pails and trying to solicit it and handing out the literature and doing community meetings and all this outreach to try to get people just to start the original recycling program, even before it became a law in 1989. So she was on the front steps.
So it is a very interesting thing to have both representatives because in New York City, in the Department of Sanitation, we run a paramilitary. That’s how it is. It has got ranks and ratings and running like the Army. So, when you first get hired, you are a sanitation worker. You have to take another civil service exam to become a sanitation supervisor which is equivalent of a captain’s rank. You wear a captain’s balls when you walk around because I use supervising a specified area and a certain number of cruise. So when you think about our rich history, so the department of sanitation is a hundred and forty years old this year. We’re about to turn a hundred and forty and when you think about the department was formed in 1881 and then in 1895, they revamp the entire department and the person that they brought into re-design how we would service New York City all those years ago. He was former military. So he changed it from you know specified work crews into a completely ranks ratings rose yet to stand at attention and all that stuff. So yeah completely revolutionized how it’s been and we’ve been running that same model in a way and naturally we new technology and new innovations and all other stuff. But basically the same those core values of having run like a milk, like more of a military operation every day.
Every day is a new attack. Every day is a new, you going after this sector, this frequency this and that’s why we’re really good, in fairness and a lot of things that are strategic deployment based. We have a plan every day of how we’re going to attack the city and how, it’s funny to attack, but how we’re going to achieve our mission. It was speak every single day. There’s a plan without it. It’s one thing to know tonnage and trends and what not, but you have to have a plan of how you’re going to navigate the terrain, may call the service commitments, get it all floated, get all the trucks back empty. There’s a lot involved.
Most people when they look at it, I mean, you’re an industry insider, you know how intricate it all is, how would you be moving parts but you would be surprised how many people have no idea to have zero connection from what happens right after they get from the kitchen to the curb. They have no idea the network of things that are going on in the background the trying to find come to a final resting place at waste.
John: I want to go back to the thing they think of a second but first I want to go back to Mom and Dad. Are mom and dad still alive with us?
Edward: I am blessed to say that Mom and Dad are both 75. My father’s retired in Florida. Loving life. He did very well for me is good. And my mother is here in New York with us. But yeah, they’re both long retired and they are both thankfully healthy, and I’m okay. I’m blessed to have them.
John: So Ed tell me how proud are they now? You’re the Commissioner of Sanitation New York. I mean, it’s Mom was in recycling before was ever cool to be green. Dad did started at the ranks, you did and became a supervisor like you said a captain. How proud are they now of their son?
Edward: Both of them are beaming, I mean, I have to tell you that there was never a… it was interesting thing. My parents were pretty simple. They were work hard do the right thing. They both cared about the community. So in addition to whatever they were doing for their living, my mother was a community activist. She was on the local school board. She’s spent so many years trying to give back to the group in Ridgewood Queens. She loved Ridgewood, the whole Ridgewood Glendale area, the community board. So the city is broken up into community boards. We lived in Community Board 5 in Queens and my mother was a member of the community board. That’s who she was. So to her, if you were going to be somewhere you need to be giving back. You needed to be doing more. It was never just about us, What else could we do?
I mean, my mother has done so much for the education. She’s always champion kids’ education and that was her big thing. That’s why she fell in love with the recycling opportunity because it was the ability to teach people stuff. She used to love giving in classroom presentations. She was at the forefront of going to all the schools in New York City and teaching people with prop should be holding up bags of “this is recyclable, this isn’t” really just going all out with it and my dad to.
My dad was the kind of guy where he was the neighborhood handyman if somebody needed something a very handy guy that could build anything to fix anything, very talented man when his hands and he would always be… he was at somebody’s house, whose washing machine broke back in the days before everything became a disposable world and you changed screens and windows and there’s something you change lock cylinders are not the whole lock and that’s what the people would call my dad, this doesn’t work.
I remember as a kid. So it’s a funny thing. We didn’t grow up in… we weren’t financially challenged both. My parents are working. We have modest household. Nothing to say to, knock around folks. That’s how we would describe it here, right? But we had, I don’t want to say, we had TVs because your people would throw TVs out all the time and sometimes my father was the first E-Waste recycler. Let’s put it that way. There was more than, it was a couple of TVs that didn’t find a way to the back of the truck if you know what I mean. But that’s because some people didn’t know this was back in the day when used to just change the picture tubes.
Edward: But what if you were the guy who knew that a $1 tube, you get your whole TV.
John: We’re in business. That’s a good deal.
Edward: So it’s interesting I think of how many things are… that life the way my parents were were always about what more can you do? Very much for…
John: They were thinking outward people. They were thinking about other people than themselves. They were out on thinking.
Edward: All the time them.
John: Well, thank God because they got to live to see you become the Commissioner.
Edward: That’s also a very strong, they are. Back to your question…
John: So listeners in our viewers who just joined us. We’re so honored to have with us today in New York City the Commissioner of Sanitation Ed Grayson, the New York City Department of Sanitation, a fine man. All his great colleagues and all the great and important work they are doing, go to nyc.gov/dsny. I want to go back to what you were talking about. The cluelessness, unfortunately, of some people who take for granted a hard and immense amount of work you do on a daily basis. I want to give some numbers, correct me if my numbers are a little bit off but on a daily basis you have 10,500 tons, approximately of residential and institutional garbage in New York City and 1,700 tons of recyclables every day that you have to manage and take care of and get rid of…
Edward: That’s about that’s right about the average. Yes, that’s the the scope of the daily work. Yes.
John: Unbelievable. And also what people don’t really realize and I realized later in life is that also under your leadership, it comes down to also clearing and keeping clean the litter and the snow off of approximately give or take sixty three hundred miles of streets.
John: Sixty three hundred miles. I mean, even when you’re a kid like me who grew up in Little Neck very similar to you in Queens, , another part of queens and in New York City as our backyard, I never think of it as sixty three hundred miles. That’s a huge. So how many employees under you that you manage to do all of this delicate dance all the time?
Edward: So the department has about 9,500 employees in total and the front lines. So the men and women behind the trucks the men and women who supervise that operation all the field staff. So everybody we were talking about the two tranches of the uniform and we have the the non-uniform support staff. There is about 7,000 members of service, a little over 7,500 actually close to seventy five hundred members of service that are in a uniform. And it’s a very interesting dynamic and we make sure we have the sanitation workers supervisors and the chiefs and that whole uniform side and then we have countless mechanics. We have this incredible trade staff to skill trade in addition to the that number of employees. So almost let’s say depending on the budget year, so to speak, anywhere from 9,500 to 10,000 employees, but it’s also this enjoy incredible fleet of trucks and it’s incredible footprint of properties.
So we have garages for every community board that we service and we have you know offices and satellite dispatch locations because we don’t fit in every place. So when you think about it, it’s just this huge bit of real estate, a very big network of buildings. So then you have building maintenance and boilermakers, You don’t always think of how vast and how much you have to have on an operations front between physical plant into administrative offices and then naturally, there’s we sometimes… when you’re in the thick of it you think of you… we forget to mention everybody that’s back at the house. We have this incredible team in our fiscal services and HR and we think about you know, I know we’re going to get into it, but you think about what’s been going on through the pandemic right?
Some of the most… you talk about what’s essential. For us, there’s the essential of the essential and the meaning… it’s one thing to completely champion everybody on the front line out their day-to-day, right? Another sub setting, inside our own department of heroes are literally that that team and HR and fiscal services who were there to make sure that benefits were in place and paychecks were going out because especially now at the height of the pandemic when you think of it’s so interesting when you think of the term critical and essential. Yeah, you need frontline people to be out there in our world moving those piles, but in the end they’re doing that on the basis of their commitment but also on the faith. And having people in the back of the house that were also working from home and doing everything necessary to make sure that all of those administrative functions were happening so critical.
John: And working for home for the first time in the history of the DSNY this was unprecedented. You’re, I mean, to manage, what you manage and the Balancing act in the delicate dance that you were doing. How did… obviously the COVID tragic period has affected all of us both personally and professionally and otherwise. But as a leader, Ed, how do you manage also fiscal challenges that you’re faced with while you try to manage keeping up the services that people have you know a little bit taken for granted, but at least I’m minimally have come to expect also?
Edward: I have to tell you that I have never been prouder to be a member of the department. So I’ve been with the Department almost 22 years. I started behind the truck work my way up to being the Commissioner. I’ve never been prouder this department. So my… it’s that part of the resume only think of the things that you’ve seen in my tenure with the department, 9/11, things that we were apart of the aftermath and we had people from day one there and we stayed through the absolute last bit of film that went. We reopened the fresh kill site to become the sorting site for every bit of debris left in or a million and a half tons debris sorted with the OCME and the FBI task force and know when you think about what was going on there into your fast forward a few years and I’m just trying to admit secret pain and for you.
Edward: Just a tremendous undertaking. I was three years on the job and I worked in Queens and we got putting bands and we had to come down and do your part and at ground zero and that’s just what we did. Then we had dedicated teams down there for months, helping in every possible way, holding debris, using equipment to help dust suppression, keep things safe. Everybody else down there believe it or not because we have such an intricate in network fueling system and we have we maintain fuel trucks to make sure that we can operate at all times. We were fueling all of the equipment that was down a because you couldn’t take it out of the site. Everything that was in that became a quarantine zone and everything had to happen inside.
So the whole area of Manhattan, so when you think about it, there’s a lot of amazing people spend months and months down. You fast forward a few years, every between then and that instance and all of the incredible snow events that have happened huge blizzards and then into Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy. These were the front line responses that we were at the forefront of all of them. There are certain instances in New York City where we become the first thing first responders because we have to give access. We have to give one heavy equipment and that’s what we have. We have our tractor operators and people that have these unique skills payload operators that can come in and do some incredible work right at the time that you need crucial access to get in for life and limb first responders and it’s an interesting thing.
So when you think about moving into this pandemic, we were coming in every day. We’re not missing a day. We’re doing everything we can. We’ve taken our lumps as have a lot of other. Industries, agencies, critical workers and first responders with the whole world. We’re all going through this together. This is yet another example of… it’s an interesting time when you are a victim and a responder at the same time. And every snow event, meteorological event hurricane response, and now to the pandemic, we’re all living through this together. We are all dedicated workers but we’re going in…
This is the kind of period of time in New York that’s been so interesting. It’s that what we start to really appreciate who is critical, what is critical? Because I cannot… Listen, I will always champion my workforce. I will champ but on the same token, you know who was critical also, that man woman stocking the shelves in a supermarket because people were worried about food supply and you think about that like everybody, you find your new definitions of what’s really important. It’s an interesting thing in times of tragedy and that’s what this pandemic. It’s a tragedy. A global and a national tragedy and when you think about how people have come together to try to change, in behavior change that’s been going on and the humanity that’s out there for the pandemic response. You see this these new changes, so it’s been difficult, but we were so committed to get our job done.
We’ve had eight fatalities from COVID. We’ve had about 15% of the workforce or a little over 1,400. We’re nearing we’re rounding the curve near 1400 and have employees test positive for the virus. We opted at the height of the first wave back in April admitting, we had up to 25% of the staff out for either, you know COVID or COVID-related quarantines. So we have a dwindling workforce. We had operational goals to hit like we kept and you’re doing everything you can to motivate. You’re doing everything and this is where the dedication of the workforce and more importantly the dedication of the frontline supervisory staff to try to keep morale high daily. To send the message and get people to absorb the message that you are critical. You are essential. Essential doesn’t mean expendable. We need you in every single day.
Sanitation, just by the nature of the work, we’re a PPE-oriented business entity. You’re always wearing gloves, you always wearing boots. We have a lot of functions prior to pandemic where we’re going on every day and just because of the nature of the business, we are wearing a mask. So we had certain stockpile built in but then at the height when we started getting low with mess just like everybody else on the east coast when that first tranche of one masks and then even for us to to say unequivocally to work with our workforce and come up with we were doing bandanas, we were doing things differently simply because we wanted it. We wanted to have those masks for health care front line. They look at we… because we would talk to our own workforce just remind them if anything happened to you like we… one of the things about sanitation work, the industry, is it’s much of its a whole bunch of people working to change that.
We’re the most dangerous jobs in the world like whether there’s a pandemic or not, it’s just a dangerous job. So the likelihood of someone getting hurt and then needing medical attention, that’s how you have those conversations. We need the nurses to be in. We need we need them to be there because I need a doctor. It’s a weird thing like this, there’s always the, in fairness, you wouldn’t mind certain swap out professions on in a pinch. We’ve all seen those disaster movies, but I’m sorry enough for a doctor if I can get one like anybody could just can’t step in you know for certain things. So it’s that, it’s trying to keep morale high. It’s trying to navigate weird waters on as far as than the aftermath of that if you can get through that in the physical plant.
Because let’s face it everybody we all know, think about the change in our world now. We talked about telecommuting, we talked about a few things, but if you’re an industry like ours, I can’t pick up the garbage from home. Okay. So now and now most physical plants that house large dispatch, you have a lot of room for the equipment, but you usually sacrifice the personnel space, meaning you build locker rooms that are very efficient. It’s not six feet between lockers in a locker room. Everybody could just think about you even if you don’t know what it’s like to be a sanitation worker or someone who goes… think about high school, think about a locker, think about the gym, like you don’t have….like there’s nothing,
So when you think about how do you manage large lots of people who come in and want to have a change of clothes and want to write. At the end of the day, you’re looking to show it was trying to adjust schedules, adjust collection times, and then you got to think that the entire network of that and we back to how intricate it is, a lot of people… it’s behavior. When you think about it, so it’s 12,000 a little over 12,000 combined tons a day of material on in a specified area that we told the public to put it there. Now, we have a service commitments. Now, there’s that estoppel between you and the public and also you talked and then the interesting thing is we told you to put it there and while you’re okay that we came, us coming now at two o’clock in the morning when you were just about to hit sleep that’s going to stick in your craw.
So, you know, what you think about this this the fluidity of what we’ve all come through together. So that’s why it’s not just the department’s had to make these adjustments. The public has made so many adjustments. We’ve been working with them. They’ve been working back with us. I applaud everybody across all industries who have really, especially response providers as well. We’re really had to change the way that they’ve operated in a world that has been also completely a little, there’s not a ton of firmament. You got to be very… right now is the time where you have to be a lot of very flexible. I know one of the things…
I’m glad you asked me about the budget simply because here’s a primary example of a misalignment of things. It couldn’t come at a worse time. Let’s put it that right.
John: Right, right.
Edward: I don’t ever want to sign up for a pandemic again and I hope that for all of your listeners that we never ever have to do this again. I wanted to end. I hope we never do it, but talk about a weird thing where, at about exactly the time that we we all as a group as that thought everybody try to work from home and let’s do like who didn’t agree with that? We don’t have a handle on these, let’s just stay home. Stay home. Work from home. You can work from home, work from home. Except that… that was the exact time that everybody is going to need to upgrade their computers and get a different printer. And again, if you’re still printing and get all this new tech, it was great except for me. That was the exact time I ran out of funding to run my E-Waste recycling program.
Edward: So right at the exact time that we had more E-Waste that was going to turn over and everyone got green, I know don’t have a good mechanism to help you do that. So right there, there’s a misalignment of good, nobody’s going to disagree with that’s a good move for public safety. Now, it creates a portion of the waste stream at the exact time that is now increasing for operates that I can’t do because we were doing this great program. It was expanding and we were finally able to get some E-Waste at the door, at your curb.
Edward: Pull it out we could come get, you make an appointment, we were coming to get it and we didn’t have the funding to continue that program.
John: Let us be clear. John Doherty, Kathryn Garcia, now you. Those I mean, you’re filling big shoes and great people. John is a still a living legend. I got the pleasure of getting to know John. Kathryn is just amazing and I got to know her. Now, you, I mean all the experience family background and you also, all these years either… and I know you’re a humble guy. That’s just how Queens guys are I just know it. I mean, oh that’s my that’s my background. But the E-Waster program, let us be clear, is one of the trademarks successes of DSNY, it’s the most successful residential E-Waste recycling program bar none in America, maybe the world. And like you said the the tragic COVID period created a misalignment in need versus ability to service. I mean just nuts.
Hey how about vaccinations? We’re all now trying to get back to hopefully a new better head. How is the vaccination process been going with your department in New York City?
Edward: Well, I would like to show the vaccines and right now there’s the vaccinations to New York City. They have, we thought were following the guidelines from the State and there is specific categories of employees and classes of employees that have been included. And as of right now, as of this conversation, my front line workers, the men and women who do the residential recycling, they are not included in the current category. They are not included. We have a facet of law enforcement and we have a facet of healthcare workers that work for us that they’ve been included and we’re waiting patiently.
I have to tell you that right now to the city at this exact moment and every day the mayor is pushing for more and more vaccines to be made available. The number of doses in the city to be made available. There is not enough to go around. They’re really playing, they’re trying to have the best strategy to include the most vulnerable people. As it stands right now, I will always champion for my workforce to get vaccines. I want them at the front line. We’re very anxious to be included widespread and I think that we’re looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward as the city just for the whole city for and and the recovery of New York City, for more and more people to get the vaccine so that we can find what that new norm is because right now I don’t know.
Everybody is trying to recover from the pandemic and there is these incredible programs to try to have a recovery for all and try to really get out there and really rebuild from this, some incredible programs and and try to make sure that that New York City gets back to where it needs to be on so many levels. So when I…
John: You wanted to be head in… we’re going to get through this. Science is going to win and God willing, end of the summer, early fall, the vast majority relieving or get herd immunity or will get a combination of herd immunity with the vaccines. I feel good about what they said. There’s 1.2 million of us in America getting vaccinated every day, that’s going to be good for us. So where, as a leader and as someone who has lived this for his whole life of growing up with parents both recycling and as a supervisor for DSNY and now you yourself as a career man in this and now the Commissioner, where are you going to take this to be a new better in 2021 and beyond? How are we going to get to a new better because new normal I feel is just is a term that’s almost like a give up term. I think people like you who are progressive and big thinkers are going to take us to a new better. Where are you going to take us to a new better in 2021 and beyond?
Edward: I think that the big thing is, I think one of the moments that could be… I don’t know how to describe pandemic and then see that the term like silver lining but I think that in the end, the adaptive change that is going on in everyone’s life. The things that we never thought you’d do, you’re doing.
John: The resiliency that we’ve all shown together.
Edward: When you think about this forced evolution of what’s happening on how you be… Forced evolution… so usually things of slow period of maturation and yet now we’ve all kind of hit that and we’ll have to all and somebody much smarter than me one day we’ll look back and and and think what was lost and what was gained in that increased warp speed of maturation, but inside that as well considering that we’ve all had to really look at so many other things in our life. This is exactly the time to get people to change their behavior. So meaning one of the challenges that we’ve always had here is in we have we have great goals. You need brought up. Commissioner Doherty was here when recycling started. He wasn’t even the Commissioner yet. He was ushering in that age, but then in his entire tenure as our Commissioner, he champion recycling. And then when we got Commission Garcia, she just took it to the whole next level.
John: All right.
Edward: Residential will get… the organics program, 0X30, the entire campaign. These are big things, these are great things, the E-Waste program. These are great things that took us to another level and when you think about it, all of that do was still hoping for behavior change. And I don’t mean it like that. They did everything that they could with that small maturation of behavior change. And now, both of them also face times where they had the reduce their footprint because the budget and now I am in charge of the department and we retrenched off foot printing further because it was further along independent.
And now you say to yourself, even though you’ve lost a step right now though, there are a lot of people rethinking how they live, how they behave, what’s right for me and I think that while we look for new and it’s not new norms, it’s the new better. While we search for the new better as you said, it’s great way to put that. Always search for the new better. Now, we may have the more willing recipient to behavior change for what they do after they get over the divine power that everybody has in their hands on when something is trash.
Most people don’t even look at it that way. It’s an interesting way to put that but when you’re you literally walk around daily with this incredible divine power that you hold in your hand to say this is waste to me and then the hardest part I’ve always thought of getting people to make the right decision on what they do with that is that it was tough enough to make the first decision.
John: All right.
Edward: If people were like making a couple of this unit, they don’t want to make it once you do you think it’s and now once that I’ve decided it’s waste, I have to pick which container it goes in. Now I have to pick am I going to hold on to it because I want to put it on the right day of the wrong day. And while those are tiny obstacles, I find that it’s those obstacles that’s been the struggle for a lot of places. Specifically in the municipality when you’re trying to do large-scale municipal programs, it’s different when you… we have a link we’re playing against the landscape that we do not have complete control over and never will. So we really need that buying. We need synergy with our clients so to speak on the public that they have… for you think of the most successful recycling and reclamation efforts that have ever happened, they were I hate to say it, they were joining war efforts.
When you think everybody had… you talk to the older generation of World War 1 and World War 2 and they thought we got to save the metal because they thought that they could make more armor because we had the save, preserve the way of life. When you think about it, some of those things, the textiles, and the reclamation of things that were all for an effort. That was a national belief that the way of life was in jeopardy. And if you can somehow channel them into letting people understand that the waste stream needs to be managed. The decision, but it’s not managed as in you just put it out, we’ll figure it out after that.
You have to make some good decisions. You have to think about every every part of it from the shelf to your life usage of X thing, where you know variable, into then the disposal back and there a lot of good things that can come while we have a small window of opportunity to talk to people who are now thinking: Wow, that’s a new norm. That’s a new thing. That’s a new policy. I could adapt to that. And it’s only be in this in this intricate time of how do we take the next steps forward thinking while there’s a lot we’re going to have to mourn, what can we praise? What can we do next? So that’s something that I think that I want to I want to look at. I want to in my tenure in this role, I think I want to number one, focus on employees morale. We’re nothing without them. The pile does not move itself. I’ll never forget when I started here. We all die, it doesn’t move itself and it never will. It’s one of those things so and you think about that and how do we keep the employees engaged? How do we keep them? Knowing that zero-waste…
You think about because zero-waste lifestyle. And one of the things is also ensuring to the men and women that work for the department in and also the subsidiaries and because we work a lot of community groups and trying to convince everybody that the concept of zero waste does not mean zero job, does not means your opportunity. It means that we are going to work even harder. It means that we are going to do even more.
Edward: But you got to remember that sometimes it depends on how it’s thought of, how its explain that it’s trying to get by in both from the people we service as well as the people who do the service for us and letting them… I think this expansion opportunities. I think that that we all have a lot to get past so I don’t know the temporal moment, but I think that if we can have that running out of have those talks do what we can do. I always… one of the terms that I appreciate what sometimes gets also misused is you think outside the box.
Edward: But in some cases you need to think inside the box because there’s about an inch of room left in if we can get it. There’s so much that is underutilized in that one inch that’s left in that box. When you think about how people have had to retrench they have augmented their entire lifestyle. So to try them to get them to do something that seems completely out of “I’m not doing that” but yet on the same token, they might do the four or five little things that they weren’t doing before out of convenience or out of it didn’t matter like I don’t know and now they’ll do it and it’s inside the box. So it’s not that moonshot, but you can get people doing excellent behavior change in a smaller footprint only now because they’re doing it now.
People are washing their hands now more than ever. As silly as that is as a comparable more than ever before, people are washing their hands, right? So now that’s something that we could have done every day was always there. There was always soap, there was water, there was. It’s been there all the time but people are washing their hands, people are thinking about things that they’ve never thought of before that I would argue are completely inside the box. There’s nothing fancy about and yet more and more people are doing that. So when you think about that, that’s the same level of gains on good thought process building. Setting the new chore of building blocks on how people can behave and interact with the waste stream, make good decisions that are more sustainability-based, make good decisions when they are presented with a proposal for behavior change and rule change and municipal governance where 9 Zone, okay, that makes sense only because right now they have to take in a lot and maybe the door is open for those kind of discussions.
John: Hey, for listeners out there that want to find Ed Grayson, Commissioner Ed Grayson and his great colleagues at the New York City Department of Sanitation, go to go to nyc.gov/dsny. Ed, thank you for your time today. It’s been a joy and an honor to have a fellow Queens guy on with me on the impact podcast. That might be a first for me actually and also if there’s anyone who’s going to take the DSNY to a new better, it’s you, Ed Grayson, I’m telling you. I know John Doherty. I know Kathryn Garcia, and I know New York City because that’s my hometown, and I just loved our time today, and I’m so excited to come be able to meet you in person one day and anything I could do to help to support your efforts. We’re here to support because New York City should get to a new better, and I’m so glad you’re leading the DSNY in that direction. Thank you so much for all your time today for making the world and New York City a better place.
Edward: John, thanks to you. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
John: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by the marketing masters. The marketing masters is a boutique marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online, please visit themarketingmasters.com.