During his final months in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his sights set on getting the concrete jungle to boost its recycling. Despite the Mayor’s past efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get New York residents to start thinking more “green”, the city’s residential recycling has declined from 20 percent to 15 percent over the past 12 years. The news may be dismal but a change is a coming. The administration is serious about moving the city’s solid waste programs into a new direction and helping New Yorkers clean up their act. Here’s a look at key initiatives the city is rolling out to set solid waste reduction back on track.
The Bloomberg administration jump-started recycling initiatives across the city by selecting Recycle Bank’s former co-founder and CEO, Ron Gonen, to sit down with environmental advocates and solid waste experts to discuss strategies for improving the city’s waste-reduction initiatives. Gonen joined the New York City Department of Sanitation in May 2012 as the Deputy Commissioner for Recycling and Sustainability –a newly created role—and given the task of doubling the city’s recycling rate by 2017.
Since Gonen’s appointment to office, the city has implemented a few programs focused on recycling and composting that will overhaul waste-reduction programs and make recycling a tad bit easier for New Yorkers to hop on board. For instance, this summer the city will begin to accept all rigid plastic in hopes to help residents avoid confusion on what types of plastic are recyclable or not. Also launching this summer are cost-free electronics waste recycling at apartment houses, textile recycling collection, and a state-of-the-art processing facility set to open in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. By fall, over 1,200 New York City schools will also tackle their gap in conservation and sustainability by adopting food waste collection programs and enhanced paper recycling collections as well.
Currently, New York City taxpayers are shelling out over $330 million to cover the costs of dumping waste into landfills each year. To make matters worse, the last landfill in the city, which was in Staten Island, closed over 12 years ago and now the city is forced to ship refuse outside of the state to Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. “Landfills cost us a lot of money. If we could recycle a lot of stuff, it would be much better for the environment and better for our bottom line,” said Mayor Bloomberg.