New York's viral new trash cans unveiled nearly 2 years after a $1.6 million contract with consultancy giant McKinsey

The McKinsey & Company logo on a building.
McKinsey & Company was contracted in 2022 to help figure out how to tackle New York City's sidewalk trash problem.Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images
  • New York's viral new trash bins were unveiled following a $1.6 million contract with McKinsey.

  • Mayor Eric Adams revealed the new bins as part of his "Trash Revolution," launched Monday.

  • New York is embracing containerization — putting your garbage bag in a bin, not just on the street.

New York's much-discussed new trash cans have been shown off nearly two years after the city spent $1.6 million to contract with consulting giant McKinsey in 2022.

On Monday, NYC Mayor Eric Adams revealed the wheeled bin alongside NYC Department of Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch, who symbolically put a black bag from his official residence, Gracie Mansion, into the container.

Video of the launch, which saw Adams wheeling a bin onto the street while Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" played, quickly went viral, drawing memes and ridicule from citizens of cities that have had similar bins for decades.

Under the new rules, which come into force on November 12, 2024, all properties with one to nine residential units will be required by law to use one of the latch-lidded waste collectors, now available to purchase online from $46.

The newly introduced requirement seeks to minimize the number of sidewalk rats. It isn't known exactly how many rats are in NYC, but a 2014 study suggested there were around two million, and a pest control firm in 2023 estimated there were close to three million rats in NYC.

Adams said the program was part of his administration's "Trash Revolution," which aims to clean up the city's streets. Officials estimate New Yorkers produce around 14 billion pounds of trash each year. But with the new rule directed at removing about 70% of this, curbside garbage piles are hoped to become a problem of the past.

Plans for the new bins follow the city's work with consulting giant McKinsey & Company, which was drafted in to help the city assess how to contain its waste. A Sanitation Department official told New York Streetsblog at the time that the project was worth around $4 million, but a spokesperson for the department told Business Insider $1.6 million was paid out to McKinsey for the contract.

According to an October 2022 New York Times article, McKinsey was scheduled to spend 20 weeks working with the Sanitation Department to determine what sort of bins would suit different streetscapes, what they should look like, and which vendors to use. The department told Business Insider that work on the contract concluded in April 2023.

The goal was to design a program capable of combating New York's decadeslong garbage problem, looking at waste collection methods used in urban areas around the world and focusing on containerization — or, in simple terms, putting trash bags in bins rather than on the street.

A New York City Sanitation Department spokesperson told Business Insider, "DSNY's limited work with McKinsey a couple of years ago is not directly related to this week's wheelie bin announcement."

"McKinsey did not determine or recommend policy — they did math around the fact that the City was interested in waste containerization, a strategy the Adams Administration is now aggressively pursuing," the spokesperson added. The bin design was the result of work conducted by city employees, another DSNY spokesperson told BI.

The solution decided upon is similar to systems already used in cities like Barcelona, where fleets of colored, uniform bins are often found on residential blocks.

The bin project is far from the firm's first consultation in New York. The Office of the New York State Comptroller shows that McKinsey has worked on at least 10 other projects with the state.

McKinsey declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Correction: July 11, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated McKinsey's role in working with the New York City Sanitation Department. The department said that it hired McKinsey to help inform its efforts at waste management but that the decision to pursue the wheeled bins unveiled Monday was the city's and not a McKinsey recommendation. The story was also updated with a statement from a New York City Sanitation Department spokesperson and with new information from the department that the contract with McKinsey, originally said to be as high as $4 million, was ultimately worth $1.6 million.

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