April 1, New York City has reinstated the full recycling
program that was scrapped two years ago. Banished
in an effort to save the city budget, recycling is
now making its return for the same reason.
to close a $4.9 billion budget gap, Mayor Michael
Bloomberg suspended glass and plastic recycling in
July 2002. Bloomberg predicted that the cutback would
save the city over $40 million a year, and justified
the move to critics with the claim that 40 percent
of materials collected for recycling were ending up
in landfills and that the costs of recycling were
reasons, these savings failed to pan out. Since then,
recycling became potentially more cost effective than
for recycled material fluctuates, and in a lull there
is no money to be made through recyclables. When the
city cut back its recycling program it was paying
more than $100 per ton for vendors to take the recyclable
material, compared with $67-$69 per ton fee it paid
for solid waste disposal.
the suspension two years ago, however, the tables
have turned. Hugo Neu Schnitzer East, a family-owned
scrap-metal company, offered the city its first positive
bid for metal and plastic, paying the city $5.10 per
ton, and lowering the fee for glass recycling to $51
a ton. According to John Doherty, commissioner of
the New York Department of Sanitation, the next best
bid for glass was a $125 fee per ton.
environmentalists feared that suspending the program
would sacrifice the years of time and millions of
dollars spent to encourage recycling.
fears proved legitimate, and the resulting decrease
in participation will continue to cost the city money
in re-education and collection costs.
the recycling program was created in 1989, the city
had reported a steady increase in recycling. By 2002,
when recycling was suspended in the city, 20 percent
of New Yorkers were recycling. But when general recycling
was halted, even though profitable paper recycling
was never suspended, the city collected 13 percent
less paper when collection of other materials was
the city makes money on paper recycling, this
change cut the city's revenue. In addition, the
potentially lucrative paper is costing the city
money by increasing the volume and therefore the
cost of garbage disposal. This is one of the factors
that caused the city to save less than $11 million
by abandoning its recyclables to the trash heap.