New York’s recycling rate under scrutiny

New York’s recycling rate under scrutiny begins series examining New York City’s long-haul waste practices in light of its 18 percent recycling rate.

January 7, 2020

Arlington, Virginia-based news organization Politico has launched a feature article series examining what it calls the “failed” recycling policies of New York City, and the subsequent long-haul waste routes resulting from the city’s 18 percent recycling rate.

The first article, co-authored by and Sally Goldenberg and Danielle Muoio and posted Jan. 5, 2020, portrays the lack of successful follow-up by current Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to their pledges to make New York City a recycling leader. Both DeBlasio and Bloomberg, the authors note, ran for president in part touting their environmental credentials.

The city’s current 18 percent residential recycling rate is well below rates achieved by other cities in the United States that have set ambitious goals, according to Politico. Goldenberg and Muoio point to what they call shortcomings that include “a public housing system that mixes virtually all its garbage, a stalled program to recover food scraps and a lack of financial incentives to reform behavior.”

In addition to the stalled residential recycling rate, the Politico article mentions the considerable volume of construction and demolition (C&D) material that is shipped to the Dunn Landfill in Rensselaer, New York.

In that community, located about 150 miles north of New York City, a new mayor has been elected in part because of his pledge to close the Dunn C&D landfill, according to Politico.

Other potentially recyclable waste leaving New York City heads to landfills as far away as Ohio and South Carolina. Despite a pledge by Mayor de Blasio to reduce the amount of such out-of-state shipments to zero, the city instead shipped out more than 3.1 million metric tons in its most recent fiscal year—a larger volume than when de Blasio made his pledge, according to Politico.

The article quotes a regional EPA official as saying of New York City’s recycling shortcomings, “It just seems like recycling in New York City is stuck in the early ‘90s.”

The second feature article installment will examine what Politico calls “New York City’s stalled organics recycling program.”