New York Court Rules N.Y.C. Violated Recycling Law

New York - New York City has failed to meet the requirements in its 1989 recycling statute, ruled the New York State Court of Appeals.

Implementing Local Law 19, which requires the Department of Sanitation to establish the city's recycling program, reportedly coincided with a fiscal crisis, which, in turn, reduced the recycling program's budget for fiscal year 1991. Feeling the pinch, the mayor originally proposed to eliminate all recycling funds for fiscal year 1992. City Council negotiations eventually led to reduced funds for the 1992 fiscal year.

The city was scheduled to collect 4,250 tons per day of recyclable materials, or about 25 percent of the waste stream, but it currently collects approximately 2,526 tons per day, or 15 percent of the waste stream.

To rectify the problem, Mayor Rudolph W. Guiliani and his administration have been ordered to devise a new timetable to meet the recycling requirement. In addition, the Guiliani administration is negotiating with the sanitation workers' union to increase productivity. Pressure to open bids for the city's commercial and residential waste business to private firms also is mounting.

"If a community chooses to recycle a lot, it has to run as a business," said a National Solid Wastes Management Association official. "As we're all aware, recycling entails costs that may exceed the cost to throw out garbage. As long as costs are covered, and the process is economical, recycling should be able to grow and thrive on its own.

"But it's more expensive the more recycling you do. According to current data, in a suburban area, the cost to collect recyclables is about $100 to $140 per ton. Then there is the cost of a materials recovery facility, which is about $50 a ton. That means you pay about $150 to $200 per ton to recover materials that may have market value as low as $30 to $40 per ton," he said.