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A Greener Apple

Bill would expand NYC's residential recycling program.

In April, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn introduced a bill that she says would mark the first “significant expansion” of the city's residential recycling program in more than 20 years. If signed into law, the bill would increase the kinds of plastics collected by sanitation workers, double the number of recycling bins in public spaces over the next three years and require regular collection events for household hazardous waste.

“We're incredibly excited to be introducing a package of bills that will dramatically expand and overhaul the way we recycle here in New York City,” Quinn said in a press release. “Our legislation will divert more than 8,000 tons of plastic every year away from landfills and incinerators. That's equal to the amount of trash produced by nearly 10,000 people each year.”

Quinn's legislation won immediate support from city officials. “As chair of the Sanitation Committee, I wholeheartedly support these improvements to Local Law 19, the city's comprehensive residential recycling law,” said Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee Chair Letitia James in a press release.

Furthermore, the New York Times has reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg would sign the bill, should it reach his desk as expected. “We will review the legislation, and we look forward to working with the council to update the law,” Jason Post, a spokesman for Bloomberg, told the newspaper. The paper added that the legislation could become law by late April — after this issue of Waste Age went to press.

Perhaps the most significant component of Quinn's legislation is the expansion of the city's plastics recycling program. Under the bill, the city would begin accepting all types of plastic containers from residents, not just the polyethylene terephthalate and high-density polyethylene plastics that the city currently recycles. This expansion would be implemented after a new recycling facility located in Brooklyn opens in 2012.

The bill also would:

  • Mandate that the city's Department of Sanitation (DOS) place 300 new recycling bins in public spaces over the next three years. Over the next decade, DOS would have to install 700 new bins. The city currently has 300 public-space recycling bins.

  • Require DOS to hold at least one collection event for household hazardous waste in each borough every year.

  • Create a textile collection program by requiring DOS to install collection bins on city properties.

  • Implement a voluntary program for retailers and manufacturers to take back unused household paint.

“We want people to be able to recycle more things in more places. That's what we're trying to do here,” said Councilwoman Jessica Lappin in a press release. “We know that people will recycle if they have the opportunity, but that too often it just isn't possible when you're walking down the street. By expanding public space recycling, we'll ensure that New Yorkers who want to do the right thing actually can.”

The legislation also calls for schools and city agencies to improve their recycling programs and for DOS to undertake a slew of recycling studies. One such study would examine the feasibility of expanding recycling facilities. Another would examine the possibility of implementing a composting program while a third would look at commercial recycling.

“This package of bills, if enacted as drafted and aggressively implemented, could give a jolt of electricity to the city's recycling program,” said Eric Goldstein, New York City environment director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement. “We commend Speaker Quinn for her leadership on solid waste issues in general and for spearheading this effort to reform the city's landmark recycling statute.”

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