The Big Apple Has Big Waste Issues

Keep New York City Clean

via Flickr. By David Woo. CC - Some rights reserved, attribution, non-commercial

A good article on New York City’s efforts to improve waste diversion, “Lunch, Landfills and What I Tossed Out,” is featured in today’s New York Times.

According to a recent study by Siemens AG, “…New York trailed only San Francisco and Vancouver in its overall green efforts like improving air quality and cutting greenhouse emissions, [but] it trailed most other cities in … managing waste.” (To see how San Francisco leads the way in handling its waste, see our post here.)

Among the interesting tidbits in the article:

  •  NYC produces some 14 million tons of waste each year.
  •  NYC currently recycles only about 15% of waste collected by the Sanitation Department, down from 23% in 2001.
  • NYC has only about 500 recycling bins on streets and in parks.
  • Commercial food waste in the City is a huge “missed opportunity,” with about 600,000 tons of food waste thrown away each year by NY’s 24,000 restaurants as well as grocery stores, hotels, and other businesses and institutions.

Although there is some post-collection sorting of materials for recycling, a lot of materials become contaminated when thrown away together. Overall trash reduction and point of source recycling are the answers there—stop with the half-baked promises of co-mingled recycling already!

But I ♥ NY.  The City gets a lot of things right. Bottle and can deposits are just one example. As city residents know, the redeemable nickel value of each beverage container means you’ll never find bottles and cans littering Central Park or piling up in street corner trash bins. (see http://www.bottlebill.org/legislation/usa.htm for more info on bottle bills around the U.S.)

Caswell Holloway, Mayor Bloomberg’s deputy mayor of operations, puts the City’s situation this way: “…a sustainable New York City means that we need to come up with ways to deal with waste. The clock is running on landfills.  We could do better.”

Go Big Apple!