The Dump is Dead--Now What? Recycling and the Post-Fresh Kills Era

On March 22, 2001, after 53 years of accepting New York City’s trash, Staten Island’s Fresh Kills Landfill received its final shipment. Fresh Kills was originally intended to serve as a temporary storage site, but over 400,000 garbage barges later, it now stretches as far as four Central Parks and towers as high as the Statue of Liberty.

Disposing of about 14-and-half-million people’s trash is a Herculean task, complicated by the direct correlation between distance and dollars: The further away our trash is exported, the greater the cost. One major step New York City has taken to avoid an intolerable cost increase is aimed at decreasing the volume of trash headed for transportation.

Recycling in New York has come a long way since the inception of Local Law 19 in 1989. In addition to being intelligent and environmentally conscious, New York recognized the practical and fiscal benefits of recycling its waste. Vis-a-vis education, statute promulgation and enforcement, the City has helped prepare for the closing of Fresh Kills by developing a rigorous recycling campaign.

The Education

The Department of Sanitation (DOS) began its efforts by reaching out to the public with mailings and an extensive advertising campaign. They presently maintain a 24-hour telephone line (212-219-8090) that provides procedural and how-to information for New York City building residents and managers who wish to do their part. Accessibility is the key as the DOS aims to make information as available as possible. The DOS Web site extensively covers all facets of the recycling program, and the schedule of pick-ups is listed in the phone book. Robert Lange, director of the DOS recycling program, asserts, "There isn’t any law that’s ever been introduced in New York City or any other municipality in the country that has had the kind of resources spent on educating the public like this law."

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