Speaker Quinn Announces Major Expansion of NYC Recycling Program.
A press release from Speaker Christine C. Quinn:
City Hall – With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day less than two weeks away, Speaker Christine C. Quinn, together with Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee Chair Letitia James, and Council Members Mathieu Eugene, Julissa Ferreras, James Gennaro, Jessica Lappin, and Melissa Mark Viverito, today announced legislation that would dramatically expand and improve recycling in New York City. The package of legislation would mark the first significant expansion of the city’s residential recycling program since it was created in 1989. The Speaker and Council Members were joined by Eric Goldstein of the National Resources Defense Council, Ricardo Gotla of the NY League of Conservation Voters, Isabelle Silverman of the Environmental Defense Fund, Former DOS Commissioner Brendan Sexton, Christine Datz-Romero of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, Eddie Bautista of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, and Dan Miner of the Sierra Club NYC.
“With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day less than two weeks away, this is the perfect time to be looking at ways to make our city even greener,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “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. Our legislation will divert over 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.”
“As chair of the Sanitation Committee, I wholeheartedly support these improvements to Local Law 19, the City’s comprehensive residential recycling law,” said Sanitation Committee Chair Letitia James. “Revisions to the law that especially appeal to me include the expanded public space recycling initiative which would more than double the 300 bins in place, and require DOS to site a total of 700 public space recycling bins. I also support improved recycling at City and non-DOE Schools. This plan involves each school designating a recycling coordinator to place and manage receptacles around schools, specifically in classrooms and at entrances and exits of lunchrooms. The residential recycling law adds logical upgrades to the City’s current recycling efforts.”
In 1989, the City of New York enacted its first comprehensive residential recycling law, commonly known as Local Law 19. The law was one of the first of its kind in the United States, and its sheer scale – collecting recyclables from every residential building in the City of New York, and mandating collection from every commercial building – made it among the most ambitious recycling programs in the world. Within ten years of its enactment, the City of New York increased its residential recycling rate from less than one percent to more than 20 percent.
Local Law 19 has long been due for a 21st century upgrade, and the Council’s new legislation seeks to expand upon its successes while correcting some components that have become unworkable or obsolete. The new recycling legislation includes the following:
Expansion of Recyclable Materials and Recycling Programs
1. Expanded Plastic Recycling. Currently, the city only recycles plastics made of types 1 and 2. This is largely limited to air blown containers with narrow tops, such as soda and water bottles or milk jugs. As a result, a significant percentage of recyclable plastics items, are simply not recycled. The new legislation would require DOS to begin recycling all rigid plastic containers, including items such as yogurt tubs, take out containers, flower pots and medicine bottles. It takes 88% less energy to produce plastics from recycled materials than it does to produce new plastics, and this expansion would divert over 8,000 tons of plastic each year from landfills and incinerators. This component of the bill would take effect following the opening of a new recycling facility located in Brooklyn, which is scheduled to open in 2012.
2. Expanded Public Space Recycling. There are currently approximately 300 recycling bins at public spaces around the city. The new legislation would require DOS to site 300 new recycling bins over the next three years, and a total of 700 bins within the next ten years.
3. Household Hazardous Waste. The legislation would mandate at least one department-sponsored household hazardous waste collection event in each borough every year, with a long-term goal of increasing the number of events, or making such sites permanent.
4. Clothing and Textile Recycling. The new legislation would require DOS to establish a citywide textile collection program by placing deposit bins on city-owned or city-managed property throughout the city.
5. Paint Recycling Pilot. The Council’s legislation would establish a voluntary manufacturer and retailer take-back program for unwanted household paint, which makes up about 50% of household hazardous waste.
Changes and Improvements to Existing Programs
1. Improved Recycling at City Schools. Would require every school within the Department of Education to designate a recycling coordinator and to provide recycling receptacles in each classroom and other locations such as entrances and lunch rooms. Similar requirements would also apply to non-DOE schools.
2. Improved Recycling at City Agencies. Would require each agency to designate a recycling coordinator and implement plans to increase recycling in all city-owned and city-run buildings.
3. Improvements in Leaf and Yard Waste Composting. Extends the DOS collection period from March 1 – November 30, and requires the city to establish a new leaf and yard waste composting facility in Queens or Brooklyn.
4. Replaces Obsolete Tonnage Mandates. The original Local Law 19 set mandates requiring DOS to recycle a fixed number of tons of waste per year. These mandates were set at a time when the City produced substantially more waste than it does today and continuing reductions in the city’s waste stream have prevented the City from ever meeting the targets. The new legislation would replace this single vague mandate, with a series of more specific requirements and a more sensible methodology for calculating diversion rates. For example, instead of measuring recycling in sheer tons, which are likely to continue decreasing as the amount of waste decreases, it would establish a set of recycling percentage diversion goals. To assess the success of recycling more effectively, the bill would establish two different sets of recycling goals, one to calculate the recyclable material that DOS actually collects from the curbside, and a second to calculate all materials recycled from residences in the City, including e-waste, plastic bags and bottles returned for refund. If any of these goals are not met, DOS must first consult with Council to improve its recycling program. If they remain unmet, it will result in the appointment of an outside expert, to issue recommendations on how the City can meet recycling goals.
Improved Enforcement, Outreach and Education
1. Makes Fine Structure Fairer for Small Property Owners. Historically, fines for improper recycling have been set at the same amount for large residential and commercial buildings as for single-family homes. This has caused homeowners to bear a disproportionate percentage of recycling fines. The new legislation would establish two tiers for fines – the first for residential buildings with 1-8 units, and the second for buildings with 9 or more units, as well as non-residential buildings.
2. Recycling Workshops. Offers first-time offenders in 1-8 unit residences the option to attend recycling workshops (including online tutorials) in lieu of paying fines. Also requires DOS to provide trainings for owners and employees of buildings with 9 or more units that receive three tickets in one year.
3. Residential Recycling Guide. Requires DOS to create a guide to the residential recycling program, to be distributed and made available to the public.
New Reports and Studies
1. Study of Recycling-Related Industries and Jobs in NYC. Requires a study exploring recycling markets and opportunities to expand recycling facilities and recycling-related jobs in New York City.
2. Composting Study. Requires DOS to study methods for expanding capacity to compost residential and commercial food waste. Upon completion, DOS must conduct a commercial food waste composting pilot.
3. Annual Recycling Report. Requires the Commissioner to issue an annual report detailing the recycling totals for all materials recycled under City and State law.
4. Commercial Recycling Study. Requires DOS to complete a commercial recycling study.
5. Follow-up Waste Characterization Studies. Requires DOS to conduct follow-up waste characterization studies in 2012 and 2018 and requires a comprehensive study by 2024.
“We want people to be able to recycle more things in more places. That’s what we’re trying to do here,” Council Member Jessica Lappin said. “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.”
“I’m proud to be introducing legislation that will give people more opportunities to safely dispose of household hazardous waste,” said Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito. “Every New Yorker has items like pesticides, cleaners, or leftover paint sitting in a closet or under a sink, and they often don’t know what to do with them. We need to make sure these materials are properly collected, before they end up polluting our soil or water.”
“Doing a better job of recycling costs us nothing in the present and is a great value to our future,” said Council Member Lewis A. Fidler. “Expanding the collection of plastics is particularly important as we know that plastics are not bio-degradable. This bill will also make the rules simpler for law abiding citizens to follow. As such, it is a no brainer: a win-win at no budgetary cost.”
“As consumers and businesses generate more waste each year, this legislation will help make New York City a leader in recycling,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “More specifically, we need to ensure that yard waste will be composted as opposed to being added to our already overcrowded landfills. I am proud to be the sponsor of this legislation, which will make a huge impact towards the livability and sustainability of our great city.”
“I am proud to be working with the Speaker on updating our Recycling Law, which hasn’t been done since the law went into effect in 1989,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “A lot has changed since then and in order to maximize recycling efforts our laws must be brought to the 21st Century, especially when it comes to Commercial Waste. By requiring a study to be done, we will be able to see how we can improve recycling efforts in the commercial waste area. We are missing important opportunities when it comes to recycling, but we won’t know for sure, what those missed opportunities are, until a study is conducted. Once this study is completed we will have a foundation for the next step in bringing commercial recycling rules into the 21st Century.”
“I am proud to sponsor the school recycling bill which will cut down on school waste and help teach our children to be good stewards of the environment. I commend Speaker Quinn and the City Council for including this bill as part of its broad package of reforms to New York City's recycling laws,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
“This package of bills, if enacted as drafted and aggressively implemented, could give a jolt of electricity to the city’s recycling program. 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,” said Eric A. Goldstein, New York City Environment Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“These reforms make it easier to help save the planet by making recycling simpler,” said Isabelle Silverman, an attorney for Environmental Defense Fund based in New York. “The easier recycling is, the more businesses and people will recycle, and the less trash will end up in landfills.”
“For more than two decades, New York City’s recycling program has kept countless tons of garbage out of landfills and put our ‘waste’ back into productive use,” said Ricardo Gotla, Policy Director for the New York League of Conservation Voters. “The legislation being unveiled today will make this good program even better, by allowing the recycling of hard plastics, by strengthening education efforts and by identifying the economic opportunities recycling can bring to New Yorkers. We applaud Speaker Quinn, Sanitation Chair James and the Bloomberg administration for their ongoing efforts to make New York City a sustainability leader.”
“Recycling has matured and is no longer just an ‘experiment’ for the green-minded,” said Former Sanitation Commissioner Brendan Sexton. “With traditional landfilling so expensive now—as well as so polluting—we should be moving aggressively to fill those recycling trucks. It saves money, can even make the City money if done right. And, it helps save the planet. Speaker Quinn’s package of bills will make recycling even more cost-effective, and regain for New York City the green leadership position among America’s cities that we deserve to have.”
“The Lower East Side Ecology Center applauds Speaker Quinn for expanding yard waste collection programs here in NYC,” said Christine Datz-Romero, Executive Director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center. “Organic materials represents at least 20% of NYC residential waste stream, and compost can be used locally to create a greener city by rejuvenating public open space. The Ecology Center has run a community based composting program for 20 years and has seen a steady increase in participation - it is time now to create comprehensive programs to reduce our waste export to make NYC more sustainable.”
“Sierra Club NYC applauds the Council for moving forward with these important upgrades to the City’s recycling program,” said Dan Miner, Sierra Club NYC Chair. “Major expansions to City recycling and composting efforts will not only shrink the City’s carbon footprint, but they will cut municipal waste transportation costs. We thank Speaker Quinn and the other Council Members involved.”
“UPROSE applauds Speaker Quinn, Sanitation Committee Chair Letitia James and the City Council for their proposal to overhaul New York City's recycling law,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE. “Revising Local Law 19 is a big step to fulfilling the promise of 2006's Solid Waste Management Plan. UPROSE's support for the Sims recycling facility in Sunset Park and the reopening of the Gansevoort Marine Transfer Station was intended to maximize the water-based handling of the City's recycled waste, as both environmental and economic imperatives. The Council's proposal to expand the City's recycling law will expand the volume of materials to be handled at the Sims facility, creating greater economic opportunity while decreasing polluting truck traffic hauling plastics from transfer stations in our communities to out-of-state landfills to bury tons of materials that should rightfully be recycled.”
Since the closure of the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island in 2002, the value of recycling has taken on a whole new meaning for New Yorkers. Today, we spend more than $300 million each year to dispose of our garbage outside of the City. As a result, every ton of waste that we divert for recycling is one less ton that we pay to have delivered to places as far as Ohio and West Virginia for disposal. And with the development of the new Sims recycling facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, our recyclables will be processed right here in New York City, and their transportation will have a far less significant environmental impact.