NYC Considers Huge Recycling Legislation

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If passed, the new legislation would be the first major change to the city’s recycling legislation since 1989 and would coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Photo: Flickr/colddayforpontooning

New York City is looking to completely overhaul its recycling program, which would mean more materials accepted at the curb, as many as 1,000 recycling bins placed across New York’s five boroughs and an increased emphasis on collecting household hazardous waste (HHW).

The New York Times reports that it would be the first major change to the city’s recycling legislation since 1989 and would coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Among the highlights:

– The New York Department of Sanitation would begin collecting all rigid plastic containers, as opposed to the current program that accepts just plastic bottles and jugs. This would cover products such as yogurt tubs and butter containers, and the city anticipates it would result in 8,000 tons of plastic diverted from landfills each year.

– Within the next 10 years, 700 new recycling bins would be installed to allow easy access for public recycling. There are currently about 300 of these bins already in operation.

– Each borough would host at least one annual HHW collection event, with the long-term goal to create permanent sites. Each borough already operates a Self-Help Special Waste Drop-Off Site that accepts a limited number of common hazardous products such as batteries, fluorescent bulbs and paint.

– Speaking of paint, New York would establish a manufacturer and/or retailer take-back program for consumers to safely dispose of unused paint, as it’s estimated that this accounts for 50 percent of NYC’s HHW.

– The Department of Sanitation would set up separate bins to collect clothing and textiles.

Another important distinction created by the new law would be to differentiate between residential and commercial customers when it comes to fines for not participating. Buildings with one to eight units would pay a $25 fine for the first violation and it would jump to $100 for the third offense, whereas buildings with more than nine units would start at $100 and jump to $400 on the third strike. The City would offer recycling workshops and trainings as an alternative to paying fines.

This isn’t the first time that New York City has developed a separate recycling initiative than the rest of the state. In 2008, it began a retailer plastic bag take-back program that was later adopted by the entire state, and New York City currently has a landfill ban on rechargeable batteries that is not in effect at a state level.

The expansion of New York City’s recycling legislation will go before the Solid Waste Management Committee and will then need approval from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in order to move forward.

If passed, many of the changes will not take effect for several years, such as the plastic expansion that is contingent upon a new recycling facility in Brooklyn, which will not open until 2012.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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