New Recycling Initiatives in New York City Make a Big Difference in the Environment

The environmental challenges facing our planet are so big and so complex that they often feel far beyond our individual control. But the simple fact is, if we all step up to the challenge and do our part, together we can make a big difference. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of recycling. It's simple and easy—and not only does it reduce our impact on the Earth's natural resources, it also reduces the amount of trash we have to ship out of state.

Last summer the City adopted a long-term, environmentally sustainable plan to manage its solid waste, and expanding New York's recycling programs is one of its biggest goals. The Department of Sanitation picked up nearly 1.7 million tons of recyclables from private homes and other institutions last year. That's enough to fill 150,000 garbage trucks, but it's only a fraction of what potentially could be recycled. We all can—and must—do a better job.

To help all New Yorkers do more, we're pursuing a number of new, innovative programs to try to increase recycling in our daily lives. This week, for the first time, we are kicking off a test program to provide recycling bins in public spaces. The program will run for three months at several sites in all five boroughs and if it's successful, we'll expand it all across the city.

Our initial test sites will include Columbus Park in Brooklyn, Poe Park in the Bronx, Union Square Park in Manhattan, Hoffman Park in Queens, and Tappen and Clove Lakes Parks in Staten Island. We will also have bins at the Whitehall and Saint George terminals of the Staten Island Ferry. When you're near these locations, look for posters on bus shelters and phone kiosks explaining the program. Basically, magazines and newspapers go in the green bins, and bottles and cans go in the blue bins. At Whitehall Terminal we'll also be handing out free bottles of water labeled with information about the initiative—just don't forget to recycle the bottles when they're empty!

This program has great potential—but its success completely depends on the people walking through these areas. Garbage that's placed in the wrong receptacle can spoil an entire batch of recyclables—which would make this effort a waste of time and money. So please take care to use garbage cans for garbage, and recycling bins for recyclables.

Our long-term goal is, by the year 2015, to be recycling 70 percent of all the residential and commercial waste that can be recycled. This is a very ambitious goal—and much, much more than any other big city in our nation is achieving—but we are going to give it our best shot. Every day there are opportunities for all of us to step up our recycling. And if we all just do a little bit more, it can make a big difference.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is New York City's 108th mayor.

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