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[GreenYes] Re: Refuse and Recyclables

20% of NYC's Current Refuse Stream Consists of Materials Currently Designated for paper, metal, glass and plastic recycling under NYC's present curbside and containerized residential recycling program.

Yes, I should have been much more careful in my wording, I agree with Arthur. However, before discussing what more could be recycled, we need to be clear about what the current state of affairs is, at any place and time. In the last few days I have been trying to respond to many questions and speculations about present waste management practices in New York City, to do just that, simply describe what is and is not happening here. Judging by the questions and feedback, this seems to have been a useful thing to do.

Part of my job requires explaining to people that, after painstaking research, we can confidently say that 20% of our refuse, i.e. that which is going to disposal, consists of materials we presently ask people to recycle. That could be improved, I readily admit. However, we are not throwing out millions of tons a year of recyclables each year as refuse, which seemed to be at least a partial impression of some posting on the list serve.

Arthur, you are right. Everything is recyclable in theory, potentially. Nothing is, per se, non-recyclable. When I speak in such short hand I am doing nothing more than attempting to explain the present state of affairs in New York City.

I encourage people to visit to look at the results of our waste characterization study. In addition to the above statistic, you will find that:

· 35% of the combined stream of residential refuse AND recycling consists of materials designated presently for curbside paper, metal, glass and plastics recycling in NYC;

· We have, for this program, a roughly 18-20% diversion rate, which means capture rates of 60% to 70%. In other words, people are recycling 60% to 70% of what they should. (Capture rate is calculated as tons of recycling collected over tons of designated recyclables in the combined refuse and recycling (what we term ?waste? ) stream)

· Stuff that should not be in the recycling, which is included by accident, misunderstanding, or cross contamination, is 20% of metal/glass and plastics; 5% of paper.

· I am talking here about residential and NOT institutional or commercial waste.

Thank you for your clarification.

From: arthur boone <arboone3@no.address>
Date: Fri May 05 08:40:36 CDT 2006
To: GreenYes@no.address
Subject: [GreenYes] Refuse and Recyclables

It seems to me dangerous to speak saying "only 20% of what's in the refuse is recyclable." Those of us who propose higher recycling rates recognize that all discarded materials can be recycled, or, perhaps more accurately, given another useful life that does not require landfilling or incineration. The municipally-sponsored collection programs target some of those materials for collection but by no means all; it would be more accurate to remark that 20% of what's in the refuse is also targeted for inclusion in the existing recyclables collection program.   I think a major shift occurred in the opinions of recycling leaders about ten years ago when recycling was no longer seen as the things we kept out of the garbage but rather garbage was then seen as what we failed or refused to recycle. This shift is a tribute to the success of recycling programs in the earlier decades of our movement and is the foundation of all current talk about zero waste, producers' responsibility, the travesty of "integrated" waste management, or any other catch phrases now current.   Arthur R. Boone Executive Director Total Recycling Association Oakland, California
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