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New York City to End Recycling of Glass and Plastic

NY Times 1jul02

[ Environmental Organizations Vow to Block Export of NYC Garbage to Caribbean, Demand Real Solutions Press Release 1jul02 ]

The city's recycling program will be drastically scaled back starting today, as the Bloomberg administration, in a money-saving move, halts the recycling of glass and plastics.

Paper recycling will continue as before.

Metal recycling will continue as well for aluminum foil and trays, cans and wire hangers.

But glass and plastic bottles, jars and jugs should now be discarded with garbage, along with beverage cartons. (Beer and soda bottles with a nickel deposit can still be redeemed at stores.)

City officials have softened their threat to leave improperly sorted recycled materials at the curb, a practice that critics said would lead to rampant litter.

That policy will remain in effect only until next week, by which time officials said improperly sorted materials would simply be taken to landfills with other trash.


Recycle Rule Is Set, but the Trash Isn't

BARBARA STEWART / NY Times 3jul02

Even though new city recycling rules went into effect on Monday, not many residents and superintendents of apartment buildings in New York seem to know how to sort their trash properly, the city's sanitation commissioner said yesterday.

In two days of collecting, many tons of improperly bagged material have been left behind, said John J. Doherty, the commissioner. The amount collected will not be calculated for several weeks, he said. The vast majority of violations involved bags that mixed plastic and glass with metal. As of Monday, metal was supposed to be bagged separately and plastic and glass were to be placed in the regular garbage.

"I think we have to recognize that a lot of these collections come from apartment buildings," Mr. Doherty said. "People threw things into a bin almost a week ago. So the superintendents were taking plastic and glass out like they used to. But now we consider those nonrecyclables."

The sanitation crews are instructed to leave bags containing plastic or glass on the sidewalk, he said, for later pickups by garbage crews.

Sanitation officers have been tagging improperly bagged recyclables that were left on sidewalks, he said. But there is a 60-day grace period before tickets will be handed out.


Mayor Changes Tune on Trash; Sorted or Not, It's for Pickup

JENNIFER STEINHAUER / NY Times 29jun02

The Bloomberg administration has decided to step back from a policy of leaving improperly sorted trash on the streets while New Yorkers get used to major changes in recycling that go into effect on Monday.

On Thursday, John J. Doherty, the sanitation commissioner, said that the city's Department of Sanitation would not collect bags of trash that were sorted in violation of the new laws, which will require that glass and plastics be put in the regular garbage, not in recycling bags with metals like cans. Paper products are still supposed to be separated and bundled.

"We're not going to pick it up," said Mr. Doherty on Thursday at a news conference. "If the crews see that there is contamination, other materials, in that bag or can, they're going to leave it there. We're going to ask the building superintendents, the homeowners, to bring it back in and sort out the metal. But we won't pick it up."

But yesterday, on his Friday morning radio program, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said of trash: "Just put out your paper and your metal, and we'll be happy to cart it away." His spokesman, Edward Skyler, said that the city would not pick up improperly sorted trash the first week, beginning Monday, but would then resume picking up the mixed metal, glass and plastic no matter how it is disposed of. If traces of glass or plastic are in the metal, it will be recycled. If the concentrations are too high, even the metal will have to be thrown out.

"At least my predictions of chaos have resonated with the administration," said Michael McMahon, a councilman from Staten Island who fought the new rules, arguing that it took years to teach New Yorkers how to sort trash. "I'm glad that they will abandon that policy."

Because the administration is not conducting a large-scale public information campaign to explain how the new policy works, some City Council members and environmental advocates have argued that the policy will take a long time to sink in, just in time for it to be reversed, as is the goal of both sides of City Hall, who are expected to research new ways of making the program the most cost-effective.

Mr. Bloomberg suspended glass and plastic recycling to help the city close a $5 billion shortfall. Getting rid of regular garbage costs the city roughly $65 a ton, he said, while taking plastics and glass to sorting centers costs $110 a ton. A lack of demand for recycled glass and plastic, he said, meant that many of those jars and bottles wound up in landfills anyway.

"This underscores that it is not a good idea to do the suspension because it is unworkable," Mr. McMahon said yesterday. "I think there was a lot of pressure from the public and the media," he added, to abandon the idea of leaving unsorted garbage on the streets.


Sort It Wrong and Garbage Stays at Curb

MICHAEL COOPER / NY Times 28jun02

Bloomberg administration officials said yesterday that the city simply would not pick up trash that was not sorted properly, once the city stopped recycling glass and plastics on Monday.

And after spending nearly a decade teaching people to separate their bottles and jars, the city does not plan to embark on any big, costly advertising campaign to publicize the new recycling rules, which will now require that glass and plastics are put in the regular garbage, not in recycling bags with metals. Instead, officials said, they expect people to get the point in a more direct, possibly more sensory way: bags left on the streets.

"We're not going to pick it up," John J. Doherty, the sanitation commissioner, said yesterday. "If the crews see that there is contamination, other materials, in that bag or can, they're going to leave it there. We're going to ask the building superintendents, the homeowners, to bring it back in and sort out the metal. But we won't pick it up."

Some City Council members and environmental advocates, who have opposed cutting back recycling, warned that people could take weeks to get accustomed to the new rules, steamy summer weeks that could see the streets littered with blue refuse bags.

"Old habits are hard to break," said Michael McMahon, a councilman from Staten Island who fought the new rules. "We spent years trying to encourage good recycling habits. One of the reasons we argued against any suspension is it's going to lead to chaos. If they're going to leave the trash on the curbside, and not pick it up, then it's going to lead to a major littering problem throughout the city."

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg suspended glass and plastic recycling to help the city close a $5 billion shortfall. Getting rid of regular garbage costs the city roughly $65 a ton, he said, while taking plastics and glass to sorting centers costs $110 a ton. And since there is not much demand for recycled glass and plastic, he said, many of those jars and bottles wound up in landfills anyway.

Halting the program this year while it is overhauled and made more cost-effective will save the city $40 million, Mr. Bloomberg said. The city is set to resume recycling plastic next year and glass the following year.

The city will not fine people for recycling infractions for at least 60 days, officials said, while the public gets used to the new rules. When the grace period is over, though, many of those fines are expected to double, to up to $100.

Some civic groups worry that changing the city's recycling rules could worsen a problem that had seemed to be waning in recent years: scavengers strewing litter about as they pick through trash to collect soda and beer bottles and cans, which they redeem to get back the nickel deposits.

Since the advent of blue recycling bags, bottle and can collectors knew to pick only through the ones that contained metal, glass and plastic, minimizing the mess. Now that most New Yorkers will be throwing their bottles in the regular trash, some people fear that the scavengers will begin looking through all garbage bags, leaving more, smellier litter behind.

"Potentially, it is a problem," Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

Steven Spinola, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade organization, said that his group would send an e-mail to real estate management agencies, suggesting that they advise tenants to put redeemable bottles in clear plastic bags, so that collectors could find them without disturbing other garbage.

Since the point of the new rules is to save money, the city will not be spending much to teach the public about them. (In the past, the city spent millions on television commercials teaching people to separate glass and plastic, including one that featured Joe Torre, the Yankees manager, and Rudolph W. Giuliani.)

Mr. Doherty, the sanitation commissioner, said that his department would stuff fliers explaining the new rules in mailboxes and send a letter out to New Yorkers later this summer. He said that the department would stick decals on improperly sorted bags that are not picked up, telling people that they should take out everything but the metal.

Environmentalists fought the partial suspension of the city's recycling program, arguing that it would deal a setback to their efforts to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. Mark A. Izeman, a senior lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that many groups would now be working to improve the system.

"The challenge now," he said, "is to identify ways to restore plastic and glass recycling in a more cost-effective fashion."

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