Over the years, changing rules and differing levels of commitment from city government have limited the potential of New York's recycling system.
The idea of saving bottles, cans, cardboard and other materials to be recycled—rather than using natural resources to create them again—is widely understood. Separating them properly, collecting them efficiently and processing them in a cost-effective way is the real challenge.
Ever since it became law in 1989, recycling in New York has been a struggle. In 1996, Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the recycling law "absurd" and "irresponsible" while fighting a lawsuit that alleged he wasn't doing enough to enforce it. Mayor Michael Bloomberg suspended glass and plastic collection in 2002, believing that it would save money. This was never proven true and rates haven't reached their pre-suspension levels since the full program was reinstated in 2004.