Nearly two months into Mayor Michael Bloomberg's suspension of glass and plastic recycling - a move designed to trim $40 million from the city's budget - New Yorkers are slowly getting used to the idea of tossing their Pepsi and beer bottles out with their regular trash.
Looking for ways to save money in the wake of the recent economic downturn and the aftershocks of September 11th, the mayor announced his plan - paper and metals to be recycled as normal (because they're the easiest materials to recycle and have the best market value), plastics suspended for one year, glass for two - to choruses of both approval and doubt; approval from bottom-liners at City Hall anxious to cut costs, and doubt from environmental groups and New Yorkers concerned about where all the unrecycled trash will go, and how it will impact the environment in and around the city.
To address the concerns of both groups, the mayor has put together a task force to investigate ways of making the removal of New York's City 12,000 tons of trash per day more economically and environmentally sound. Bloomberg also recently outlined a plan to open waterfront trash stations in each borough so that garbage can be hauled away by barge, rather than being transported by exhaust-producing trucks to landfills in other states.
The plan sounds simple enough, but the transition has not been altogether smooth. Over the last several weeks, the New York City Sanitation Department (DSNY) has received several thousand phone calls and a slew of e-mails regarding the new policy, and, according to spokesman Vito Turso, those making themselves heard are not the ones happy about a simpler disposal routine. There has been confusion: What are the rules, exactly? What color bags should be used? (For the record, according to the DSNY: clear for recycling, black for garbage; no more blue.) And there has been some general annoyance over the mayor throwing the brakes on a program that in the 21st century seems de rigueur. (The department's 24-hour information line can be reached at 212-219-8090.)
There have also been some procedural kinks in the new system. Building supers have noted that because people tend to have less metal to throw away than anything else, many of their tenants seem to have lost the desire to separate at all, throwing metal in with the rest of their garbage.