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Recycling is not going well in New York

Nov 06, 2023 12:56 pm

Thomas C. Zambito reports in the Poughkeepsie Journal that there is talk of expanding landfills in New York as recycling costs have skyrocketed, and more renewable materials are not being recycled. The owners of bottle redemption companies want to raise the 3.5 cents-per-container deposit for beer, soda, and water containers. In 1987, New York set a goal of reducing, reusing, or recycling at least 50 percent of the state's waste stream in ten years. It never got there, only reaching around 20 percent in 2008, and staying there since, below the national average of 32 percent. Kristen Lawton, the director of Recycling and Reduction for the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency told state lawmakers last month, “New York has too much waste and our recycling rates are stagnant.... Our recycling funding system is unsustainable.... It is getting more expensive for haulers to recycle.... Often it is equal to or the same as throwing material out, so recycling is leaking out of our system.” Lawmakers in Albany are considering two ideas to increase recycling a tiny bit more: One would double the nickel deposit for carbonated soft drink and beer bottles and make bottles of wine and liquor, and non-carbonated sports drinks also require a deposit. Another proposal would mandate manufacturers use environment friendly packaging, reducing paper and plastic in the waste stream, giving the companies, rather than taxpayers, the check. New York also recently made manufacturers pick up the cost of recycling rechargeable batteries, paints, and some other products. Kirstie Pecci, the executive director of Just Zero, a national non-profit for recycling advocacy based in Massachusetts, explained why more than 80 percent of New York’s 18 million tons of waste is going to landfills, incinerators, or being shipped out of state, saying, “What they end up doing is they permit incinerators and landfills because they want the waste to go away but that means there is no incentive to actually reduce and reuse, compost and truly recycle the things that are recyclable." Julie Tighe, the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, says, “We have to do a better job of educating the public, of making it easy for the public to be able to recycle and by making the producers of goods use the most recycled content and the most recyclable materials so that we create the circular economy.” Read more about this story in the Poughkeepsie Journal.