New York City law significantly expands city’s residential recycling program
New York City speaker Christine C. Quinn,
together with sanitation and solid waste management committee
chair Letitia James announced legislation that would dramatically
expand and improve recycling in New York City.
The package of legislation would mark the first significant expansion
of the city’s residential recycling program since it was created
In 1989, the City of New York enacted its first comprehensive
residential recycling law, commonly known as Local Law 19. The
law was one of the first of its kind in the United States, and
its sheer scale – collecting recyclables from every residential
building in the City of New York, and mandating collection from
every commercial building – made it among the most ambitious
recycling programs in the world. Within ten years of its enactment,
the City of New York increased its residential recycling rate
from less than one percent to more than 20 percent.
The new recycling legislation includes the following:
•Expanded plastic recycling – Currently, the city only recycles
plastics made of types 1 and 2. The new legislation would require
the Department of Sanitation (DOS) to begin recycling all rigid
plastic containers, including items such as yogurt tubs, take
out containers, flower pots and medicine bottles. It takes 88
percent less energy to produce plastics from recycled materials
than it does to produce new plastics, and this expansion would
divert over 8,000 tons of plastic each year from landfills and
incinerators. This component of the bill would take effect following
the opening of a new recycling facility located in Brooklyn,
which is scheduled to open in 2012.
•Expanded public space recycling – There are approximately 300
recycling bins at public spaces around the city. The new legislation
would require DOS to site 300 new recycling bins over the next
3 years, and a total of 700 bins within the next 10 years.
•Household hazardous waste – The legislation would mandate at
least one department sponsored household hazardous waste collection
event in each borough every year, with a long-term goal of increasing
the number of events, or making such sites permanent.
•Clothing and textile recycling – The new legislation would require
DOS to establish a citywide textile collection program by placing
deposit bins on city-owned or city-managed property throughout
•Paint recycling pilot – The Council’s legislation would establish
a voluntary manufacturer and retailer take-back program for unwanted
household paint, which makes up about 50 percent of household
Changes and improvements to existing programs:
•Improved recycling at city schools. Would require every school
within the Department of Education (DOE) to designate a recycling
coordinator and to provide recycling receptacles in each classroom
and other locations such as entrances and lunch rooms. Similar
requirements would also apply to non-DOE schools.
•Improved recycling at city agencies. Would require each agency
to designate a recycling coordinator and implement plans to increase
recycling in all city-owned and city-run buildings.
•Improvements in leaf and yard waste composting. Extends the
DOS collection period from March 1 – November 30, and requires
the city to establish a new leaf and yard waste composting facility
in Queens or Brooklyn.
•Replaces obsolete tonnage mandates. The original Local Law 19
set mandates requiring DOS to recycle a fixed number of tons
of waste per year. These mandates were set at a time when the
City produced substantially more waste than it does today and
continuing reductions in the city’s waste stream have prevented
the City from ever meeting the targets.
The new legislation would replace this single vague mandate,
with a series of more specific requirements and a more sensible
methodology for calculating diversion rates.
To assess the success of recycling more effectively, the bill
would establish two different sets of recycling goals, one to
calculate the recyclable material that DOS actually collects
from the curbside, and a second to calculate all materials recycled
from residences in the City, including e-waste, plastic bags
and bottles returned for refund. If any of these goals are not
met, DOS must first consult with Council to improve its recycling