NYC Slashes Recycling

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the city council have finalized the $41.4 billion budget for the 2003 fiscal year, which includes the fate of a proposed recycling suspension.

Bloomberg's initial plan called for a moratorium on glass, plastic and metal recycling for 18 months, which may have saved the city $58 million. However, after a compromise, the mayor and council decided to suspend glass recycling for two years and plastic recycling for one year, while the city examines the programs' efficiency. The new recycling plan will save $40 million, according to the mayor. Metal and paper recycling will remain intact because of their more stable marketplaces.

Bloomberg and the city council hope the new budget will shrink the city's $5 billion deficit. The budget took effect on July 1, when sanitation workers had to retrain themselves to collect only paper and metal for recycling.

Critics say the deal is certain to create confusion among residents and will threaten the future of a program that took more than a decade to establish. New York consistently has been a role model for other cities to follow, and residents are angered because there was no publicity campaign to educate them on what to recycle. The mayor and sanitation commissioner have contended that because the budget passed only a short time before the 2003 budget took effect, they did not have the time to inform residents. They do plan to provide information, however.

"Our commitment to recycling is just as strong as ever," Bloomberg told the Associated Press. "We're just trying to be practical." Although Bloomberg has promised no jobs would be cut, Vicente Alba, spokesman for Local 108 union representing workers in the private recycling industry, noted that the new rules could cost more than 200 of the city's 1,000 private recycling jobs. One recycling plant already has plans to close, he says.

Meantime, the city of Atlanta, which is facing a $12 million sanitation department deficit, laid off 66 of its 540 sanitation department workers, or 12 percent of the department. The city council approved the layoff to save an estimated $1.4 million per year. Last year, Atlanta spent $45.5 million for garbage collection, recycling and other sanitation services, but only earned $35.6 million in revenue.