Audit of DSS Garbage Collection Performance

This 2015 audit comes at a time of significant operational changes for City garbage service. In April 2013, the Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) completed its transition from a ward- to grid-based garbage collection system which, according to DSS management, increased the efficiency of garbage collection operations. These efficiencies include a reduction in the daily average number of garbage trucks required for garbage collection and the corresponding reductions in fuel, maintenance, and repair costs. Finally, in March 2014 DSS introduced Order 14-001, which formalized employee management control protocols. DSS also stated its intention to further improve grid system collection by adjusting grid boundaries and routes in spring 2015.


The objectives of this audit were to determine if DSS:

  • achieved its stated goal of “balanc[ing] refuse collection resources and geography to ensure maximum utilization of resources”
  • ensured effective supervision and quality control over garbage collection operations.


  • OIG concluded that DSS is not fully equipped to achieve its goal of maximizing resource utilization because it does not measure all garbage collection operations. Specifically
  • DSS lacks data needed to accurately quantify its customer base, including the number and location of households and carts it services
  • DSS lacks data needed to capture all collection field activities, including work done outside of normal routes

DSS’s performance standards are not aligned with current work levels. OIG analyzed garbage collection data from summer 2014 and found that DSS did not assign enough alleys per route for crews to meet its expectation that they spend at least 300 minutes per day on their assigned collection routes. In addition, DSS’s expectation that crews complete each alley in 40 minutes or less did not reflect current operations and should be recalibrated.

OIG also concluded that while Order 14-001 was an important administrative achievement for the Department, the supervisory process established in the Order does not provide reasonable assurance of compliance with all of the Order’s goals. OIG recommends that DSS gather and analyze more complete garbage collection data and that it amend the Order to address supervisory gaps.

Department Response

DSS agreed with all the findings of this audit and stated that it would take specific corrective actions to address deficiencies. In order to address the gaps in performance measurement, DSS plans to take a series of actions to review all garbage collection activity and optimally allocate crew resources across divisions. The Department stated that it will revise its Quality Control Order to require that all tasks and assignments are accurately reported on truck sheets and that management regularly conducts random audits of this information. In efforts to better allocate crew resources, the Department stated that it is currently working to adjust collection routes and is in the process of conducting a full inventory of garbage and recycling carts. The Department has also revised its time per alley performance standard to reflect current performance levels and will continue to regularly review this standard.

To address gaps in supervision, DSS plans to create an addendum to its Quality Control Order. The Department stated that the addendum will clarify the Department’s expectations for all levels of field supervision, including their use of GPS data and field observations to monitor crew performance.