NYC's Top 10 List

JUST AS NEW YORK settles back into its recycling routine, a new study, “Recycling Returns,” discusses 10 recycling reforms the Big Apple could implement to make its program more cost-effective.

Written by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Washington, D.C., with industry contributors from nine organizations, the paper states that the city must “now undertake major reforms to make recycling even more cost-effective … to further reduce recycling costs and ensure a successful rebuilding and expansion of the city's recycling program.”

Among the report's 10 suggestions are to:

  • Create a more powerful recycling office. The city should have a more business-oriented or enterprising recycling office on “equal footing” as other sanitation department units.

  • Streamline the collection system. By changing some collection practices, such as implementing newer collection technologies and streamlining routes and schedules, the city could significantly lower its overall expenses.

  • Strengthen the public education program. A 2001 poll of five city boroughs found that residents were confused about what to recycle. The recent upheaval of the city's program surely has added to the confusion. More public education will lead to more quality recyclables and boost rates, while increasing efficiency.

“I think [the report] is a terrific effort,” says Marcia Bystryn, executive director of the New York League of Conservative Voters and a contributor to the paper. “New York City needs an intelligent, informed jolt — not only with its recycling program but on its broader solid waste program.”

The report also suggests the city should develop more markets for recyclables. For example, attracting new recycling businesses would help to stimulate the marketplace. Portland, Ore., is one city that provides grants and loans to businesses that make products with recycled materials from the local region, according to the report.

Also, the study indicates New York City may want to consider restoring and expanding its composting program because it could save approximately $12 million per year, and composting is “perhaps the greatest untapped opportunity for expanding recycling.”

Despite the benefits mentioned, Bystryn says the study could have been more useful if it have focused on one, comprehensive solution. One solution could have resulted in more coordinated ramifications for the city, she says, noting that she still supports all 10 recommendations.

The paper also could provide advice for other cities as well, according to one of the paper's authors, Virali Gokaldas of the NRDC. “Looking at other cities, we've seen that the most successful recycling programs are the ones that use a business approach. And this approach would work in many cities,” Gokaldas says. “Overall, I think the report is a way to show New York city how to make recycling more cost-effective and to show that recycling is a money saver.”

Top 10 Ways NYC Can Improve Recycling

  1. Create a more powerful recycling office.
  2. Streamline the collection system.
  3. Increase revenues by using modern sorting facilities.
  4. Develop more markets for recyclables.
  5. Improve collection and marketing for glass.
  6. Update New York state's bottle bill.
  7. Restore and expand a composting program.
  8. Strengthen the public education program.
  9. Provide more transparent recycling data.
  10. Preserve the city's landmark recycling law.