Monday, September 25, 2006

Recycling Policy Cliches

In today's NY Sun the paper reports on the admission by the Bloomberg administration that declining newspaper readership has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the alarming 20% drop in municipal recycling. This was obvious to us from the first time the idea was floated after the Mayor's Management Report was released.

Trying to recover from this gaffe, the mayor's folks are now saying the drop has something to do with the decline of "bulk recycled materials" that are used in construction projects. Of course, even if true, these are not recyclables that the public is separating for collection by DSNY.

All of which brings us to the fact that the newly minted SWMP was ushered in with lofty rhetoric about how increased recycling was going to reduce the city's dependency on exporting garbage. This is particularly crucial because of escalating export costs that have largely been downplayed by both sides of City Hall. The key factor in this misplaced optimism was the creation of a robustly staffed, six person Office of Recycling.

As recycling disciple Eric Goldstein of the NRDC told the Sun, "There is a widespread feeling those numbers will turn around in the next year or so." Widespread where? In the NRDC offices perhaps, where each new recycling plan ushers in the kind of optimism that must have animated the Soviet appartchiks when the new Five Year Plan was announced.

The stark reality is that the city is facing astronomical export costs that will not be reduced unless it figures out how to reduce waste. Of course we've been saying this for the past three years in our advocacy of food waste disposers. The City Council needs to come to grips with this soon. The use of disposers, on both the residential as well as commercial sectors, is the only methodology that can reduce the contaminants that make large scale recycling possible.

For those like Goldstein, however, who oppose the use of disposers, there still remains the romantic and quasi-religious conception of recycling that requires that all citizens ritualistically observe the religious rites by placing their recyclables in holy bins (altars?) in front of their residences.

What would happen if the city mandated disposer use in the Housing Authority apartments? With the removal of organic contaminants the remaining waste could be source separated for high volume recycling. This kind of a pilot program, along with the passage of Intro 133, would dramatically begin the kind of cost-effective waste reduction program that the city desperately needs to initiate