With apologies for the delay, Bloomberg unveils new recycling policies

Part of the recycling campaign. (Grey New York)
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Intent on making up for lost time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced several efforts aimed at boosting New York City's recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017.

"Other cities have led the way and shown that you really can do it," said Bloomberg, speaking at a 980-apartment, Morningside Heights coop that has seen its total trash weight drop by 35 percent since first taking part in the mayor's food composting pilot in June.

New York City's recycling efforts have, on the whole, paled in comparison to those in other major cities.

San Francisco recycles 77 percent of its waste. Seattle and Toronto recycle about half. 

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New York City recycles just 15 percent. Meaning, every day, New Yorkers sends 22,000 tons of solid waste to landfills.

Bloomberg seems committed to improving his record on that front before leaving office at the end of the year.

In April, he announced that all rigid plastics (all plastics, basically, except for bags) are now recyclable in New York City.

And today, Bloomberg both unveiled a Grey Group-designed ad campaign aimed at getting more New Yorkers to recycle (tag line: "Recycle Everything"), and announced that he would be expanding the city's food composting pilot program.

He called those who question composting's potential here "doubting Thomases."

Early on in his tenure, Bloomberg actually cut back sharply on recycling programs, on the premise that it wasn't worth doing until it could be done more efficiently. 

The city now picks up compost from 90 public schools, those Morningside residential buildings and the Helena on the west side; and in the Staten Island neighborhood of Westerleigh, where the participation rate is more than 50 percent.

In September, the city will expand the program to Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn and Throgs Neck, Edgewater Park, Schuylerville and Country Club in the Bronx. The sanitation department will distribute collection bins in those neighborhoods. Participation is voluntary.

Next spring, assuming the new mayor is as enthusiastic about composting as the current one is, the sanitation department will expand the program again, this time to Beechurst, Bay Terrace, Maspeth, Cambria Heights, Glendale and Middle Village in Queens; Cobble Hill, Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn; and Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach, Tottenville, Howland Hook and Mariners Harbor in Staten Island.

The goal is to reach more than 100,000 residents.

By 2015, the department wants composting in every public school.

And separately, starting this September, the administration will launch a privately funded "e-cycling" program that will be "the largest electronic waste and recycling service in North America," according to Bloomberg.

The overall goal: to double New York City's recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017, thereby saving the city $60 million a year in waste management costs.

"So we may have gotten off to a slow start, but Mayor Bloomberg has committed New York City to recycling for the long term, and that's good," said Cas Holloway, his deputy mayor for operations, today.

I asked Bloomberg if he thinks it's possible for New York City to ever achieve a diversion rate comparable to a city like San Francisco?

"Well, I don't know," he said. "But I know we can do an awful lot better...This saves us money and it dramatically makes the environment that our kids are gonna inherit from us better. It's kinda hard to argue you shouldn't do this."