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Earth Friendly

April marked the 40th anniversary of the original Earth Day. Appropriately enough, the month brought about a slew of recycling and landfill diversion news. First off, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn introduced legislation that calls for a significant expansion of the city's residential recycling program.

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. Quinn estimates that the legislation would keep about 8,000 tons of plastics out of landfills each year. “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. The bill is expected to pass (for more on this legislation, see “A Greener Apple” on p. 6).

On the other side of the country, Seattle officials were understandably giddy to reveal that residents of the Emerald City had composted 47 percent more food scraps in 2009 than they had the year before (for more on this, see “Crazy for Compost” on p. 10).

As for waste generators, the electronics manufacturer Sony Corp. unveiled a goal of slashing its waste generation by 50 percent by 2016 (when compared with fiscal year 2000). General Mills announced that it has reduced its waste generation by 25 percent since 2005, and Hormel Foods said that is has reduced the amount of materials that it sends to landfills by more than 15 percent since 2006.

All of these developments underscore what has become increasingly clear in recent times: that the waste management needs of communities and other generators are rapidly changing, and there are real opportunities for growth in developing recycling and other landfill diversion services. By the time Earth Day has celebrated another 40 years, the solid waste industry will look very different indeed.

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