Bill Would Significantly Increase the Number Public Recycling Bins across the Five Boroughs

New York City, May 19, 2010 – Following the introduction of a comprehensive legislative package to expand and improve recycling programs in New York City, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, together with Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee Chair Letitia James and Council Member Jessica Lappin, discussed important legislation to expand the number of recycling bins in public locations across the five boroughs. Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander as well as representatives for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joined the event at Fort Greene Park, which the Administration and the Council selected in 2007 as a location for a public spaces recycling pilot program.

Currently, there are approximately 300 recycling bins at public spaces throughout the city. Providing New Yorkers with more opportunities to deposit glass, paper, plastic, and aluminum recyclables in parks and other highly visited areas, this new legislation would require the Department of Sanitation to greatly expand the number of recycling bins in or near public parks and other highly trafficked areas. Similar to existing containers, the bins would be distinctively colored and placed near existing wastebaskets.

“Next time you walk through your local park or down a major commercial strip, take a quick glance into one of the public waste baskets. I guarantee you it will be brimming with newspapers, magazines, plastic bottles, and soda cans – all of which can and should be recycled,” said Speaker Quinn. “As we head into summer and New Yorkers and tourists spend more time outdoors at our world-famous public attractions, this bill will give them the to opportunity to pitch in and recycle, and make our city an even cleaner and greener place.”

“I am excited to join my colleagues in promoting the public spaces recycling legislation,” said Sanitation and Solid Waste Committee Chair Letitia James. “As chair of the Sanitation Committee, I pushed to expand the public space recycling initiative, which more than doubles the current bins already in place. Astoria Park, as well as Fort Greene Park in the 35th Council District are perfect examples of how the City Council has followed through with improvements to make it easier for everyone in New York City to recycle.”

“We want people to be able to recycle more things in more places. That’s what we’re trying to do here,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin, lead sponsor of the bill. “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 am pleased to join Speaker Quinn and Council members James and Lappin in support of this important legislation. Expanding opportunities for recycling in parks and other public locations around the city — so we don’t add the soda cans, juice bottles, and newspapers of the millions of trips we make to our magnificent parks — is an important part of the Council’s efforts to make New York a greener, more sustainable city,” said Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander.

“With more recycling bins in public spaces such as Fort Greene Park, we have yet another example of how Brooklyn and New York City leave everyone else ‘green’ with envy—by showing it’s possible for major cities to reuse, repurpose and recycle,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “My office worked to secure Columbus Park around Borough Hall as the pilot park for the Department of Parks and Recreation’s recycling program, and we participated in the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education’s recycling audit. I am confident that years from now, when we look back on these efforts and the success of the additional bins in encouraging recycling, Brooklynites can proudly say, ‘bin there, done that!’”

In addition to the public spaces recycling legislation, the comprehensive recycling package includes:

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. 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.

3. 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.

Taken together, these bills will divert over 8,000 tons of plastic every year away from landfills and incinerators, equal to the amount of trash produced by nearly 10,000 people each year.

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.