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[GreenYes] NYC ends glass & plastics recycling
Despite the excellent hard work of the New York City Waste Prevention
Coalition, the NYC city council voted yesterday to stop recycling glass and

To read the recent report by the Waste Prevention Coalition detailing
alternatives to NYC Mayor's proposal to cut all Waste Prevention, Composting
and MGP Recycling, please go to or read the
executive summary at

This is today's New York Times article:
No to Plastics and Glass; Yes to Paper and Metal
New York Times, June 20, 2002

New Yorkers will no longer recycle glass or plastic, at least temporarily,
but will continue bundling paper and separating metals from their garbage,
under a tentative city budget deal.

Originally, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had argued that recycling glass,
metal and plastic was too expensive and inefficient, and should be suspended
until the program was overhauled. But the City Council  which had proposed
creating a separate authority to fix the problems and to jump-start a
successful market for other recyclables (like the one that exists for
paper)  argued that if the program were interrupted, New Yorkers would
abandon the hard-won habit of sorting their trash.

In a compromise, the two sides agreed to continue recycling metal, but to
suspend recycling plastic for one year and glass for two years. Mr.
Bloomberg said that the suspensions would save the city about $40 million,
in part because of reduced sorting cost. But advocates maintain that what
New Yorkers will do with their glass and plastic trash could wind up on the
street. City officials say that nonrecyclables thrown into garbage could
provoke bottle collectors into ripping open garbage. Or sanitation workers
will just keep carting it away, if residents keep placing their
nonrecyclables with metal trash.

The statewide 5-cent bottle deposit law remains in effect, and city
residents will still be able to redeem their bottles at various outlets. Mr.
Bloomberg earlier proposed changing state law to allow the city to keep the
5-cent deposit on carbonated beverage bottles to help finance a new program,
but as of last evening, that was no longer part of the plan.

Even within the Council, which lobbied hard to save the program, recycling
faced steep opposition from members who could not rationalize fully
restoring a flawed environmental program while cutting human services, they
said. But they did not want to let the administration appear to ride
roughshod over a law the institution considered a laurel. Metal became the
material of compromise, officials said, because there is a clearer market
for recycled metal than for that of glass or plastic.

But recycling advocates, many who had hovered and lobbied and rallied at
City Hall in recent weeks, appeared distinctly unmollified. "It's an
irrational process with a stupid outcome," said Laura Haight, a senior
environmental associate at the New York Public Interest Research Group,
arguing that there was no economic rationale for the compromise, which she
called the result of a power struggle between the mayor and the Council.

"The metals recycling staying is great, but as long as you've got those
trucks tooling around picking up blue bags of recycling, there's no reason
why they can't collect plastic, for which there are many markets," she said,
adding that glass was more difficult to recycle than plastic.

Mark A. Izeman, a senior lawyer at the Natural Resouces Defense Council,
agreed. "Significantly, recycling will continue for paper and metal, which
are the two most valuable commodities in the waste stream," he said. "But
the rash decision to suspend recycling for glass and plastic is
short-sighted and not in the city's best longterm economic interests."

While advocates said they were hopeful that a task force, to be appointed in
the wake of the agreement, could help fix the program, they also voiced
concern that the suspension could spell the end of glass and plastic

Whatever ultimately happens, how the new plan will play out on the streets
remained unclear. "What's the city going to do, ticket them for having the
audacity to throw a ketchup bottle in the recycling bin?" asked Ms. Haight,
noting that Mr. Bloomberg's proposed budget raises the penalty for recycling
violations. It was not immediately clear last night whether or not that
would remain in the agreed-upon budget.

But Catherine Collins, director of development at We Can, a redemption
center on the West Side that works with poor and homeless people, said the
suspension would not have a deleterious effect on her organization,
especially if the State Legislature expands the 5-cent deposit to
noncarbonated beverages.

"There's going to be a huge influx coming our way, since people will still
be able to collect the plastics and glass and bring them to us," she said.
But in the city, "there's going to be that much more litter, and that much
more that's not going to be recycled."

"It's going to be confusing to New Yorkers to have to deal with new
information on what they can and can't recycle," she added. "It took so many
years to get people to separate their trash, now it seems that a lot of
people just won't want to participate."

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

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