A Pricey Apple

DESPITE RECENT EFFORTS to increase recycling in New York City, the cost of recycling is expected to be at least 23 percent higher than waste collection. A report released in May 2007 by the city's Independent Budget Office (IBO) estimates that the cost of collecting and processing recyclables will rise to $206 per ton compared to $167 per ton to collect and dispose of refuse.

The IBO attributes the higher recycling cost to the relative inefficiency of small-volume curbside recycling. It says an expansion of recyclable materials could make recycling more cost-effective and cut sanitation costs.

Despite the rising costs of transporting and disposing of the city's refuse in landfills and incinerators, the tons of waste hauled are expected to remain constant. However, if more of the waste stream is diverted to recycling, the cost of collecting recyclables would decline. The IBO reports that a 10 percent increase in recycling tonnage in 2008 could lower the recycling cost by $11 per ton.

To address recycling, Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed his Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan in July 2006, which created the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (OROE). The office, which is part of the Council on the Environment of New York City, reports the current diversion rate is 16 percent. It aims for a 25 percent diversion rate by the end of the year with a goal of 70 percent by 2015.

David Hurd, director of the OROE, said that the immediate diversion goal is going to be reached by concentrating on residential recycling, while the long-term goal focuses on combined commercial and residential increases. The city still operates a double stream recycling system, with the commercial side permitted to private companies.