The Associated Press | The New York Times, June 30, 2002
NEW YORK (AP) -- The nation's largest city is eliminating glass and plastics from its recycling program on Monday in what recycling advocates say is the first significant rollback of such a program in the United States.
``No other big cities have taken a step back like this, and I'm not even familiar with any smaller cities taking out elements of their recycling programs,'' said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
``It's unprecedented,'' she said. ``People across the country are looking very closely at this.''
Starting Monday, sanitation workers will collect only paper and metal for recycling.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the change will save the deficit-troubled city $40 million in the coming fiscal year.
``In the case of plastic and glass, the fact of the matter was that it was phenomenally expensive and most of it ended up being dumped in a landfill anyway,'' the mayor said. ``The paper recycling has worked for a long time, and we believe that the metal recycling will certainly pay for itself.''
Critics say the change threatens the future of a program that took more than a decade to establish.
Vicente Alba, a spokesman for Local 108, a union representing workers in the city's private recycling industry, said the change will cost more than 200 of the city's 1,000 private recycling jobs. One plant already has said it will close, he said.
Bloomberg, facing a multibillion-dollar city budget deficit, originally proposed a suspension of all recycling except for paper.
Instead, his final budget, which seeks to close the deficit through various cost-cutting and revenue-generating moves, eliminated only plastic and glass.
The plastics recycling will be suspended for at least one year and glass recycling for two while the city examines whether the labor-intensive recycling program can be made more cost-effective.
``Our commitment to recycling is just as strong as ever,'' Bloomberg said. ``We're just trying to be practical.''