Environmental Initiatives
New York City (NYC)
Recycling and Waste Removal
Using recycled materials to make new products saves energy and other resources, reduces greenhouse gases and industrial pollution and decrease deforestation and damage to ecosystems. NYC makes substantial efforts to reduce its impact on the environment. The Recycling Program operated by the Department of Sanitation since November 1986, is an integral part of these efforts.
The primary goal of the Department's recycling collection operations is to reduce the amount of waste that must be exported. The Department's recycling collection operation consists of several programs: curbside collection, containerized collection, school night truck collections, bulk metal recycling, tire disposal, special waste sites, leaf and Christmas tree collection, and chlorofluorocarbon (C.F.C.) evacuation. The Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling (BWPRR) focuses on encouraging New Yorkers to reduce waste, reuse goods whenever possible, and recycle. BWPRR is also responsible for marketing recyclables and educating the general public about recycling, composting, and waste prevention.
Efforts include composting the City's organic waste and offering compost education through the NYC Compost Project in partnership with the City's botanical gardens. The NYC Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (OROE) also offers a variety of services and programs to teach and assist New Yorkers to be environmentally responsible. The efforts are carried out through Residential Recycling Assistance, Event Recycling Assistance and Special Waste Collections (for more detail on recycling see following sections).
NYC residents produce 12,000 tons of waste every day. This waste is buried in the landfills, burned or recycled into new products. Many of NYC's landfills are filled. What many city residents are unaware of is that prior to the landfills that filled in lower Manhattan throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, its boundaries extended only as far as Pearl Street to the east, Fort Clinton to the south, and Greenwich Street to the west. The boundaries have expanded 900 feet or more from these areas. As sea trade in New York increased, more piers and docks were needed. The first landfill was put in place in 1692 to service the city's growing seaside economy.It expanded lower Manhattan to add several new piers. Over centuries, as new landfills were added, the shoreline of lower Manhattan changed into what we can see on the map of Manhattan today.
In the mid-20th century, however, the expansion of Manhattan by landfill suddenly stopped. Because of the rise of air travel, the passenger shipping industry, once a main stay in the New York economy, was dying. The halt in the building of new landfills continued until 1972, when construction on Battery Park City commenced. Using material dug up from the construction of the World Trade Center, Battery Park City, the last great landfill project, was constructed to help rejuvenate the debilitated shipping areas of lower Manhattan. By 2001, construction crews had used over 1.2 million cubic yards of dirt to create 90 new acres of land for Manhattan.
The techniques used to construct landfills have varied throughout the centuries. During the 17th century, a technique called cribbing was used, in which many logs were tied together and sunk into the landfill to prevent it from falling apart. When logs were hard to find, ships were sometimes sunk instead. This continued until the early 20th century when dirt from subway construction was put into cellular cofferdams, which allowed for much quicker construction of landfills.
Many landmarks of Manhattan are located on landfill, including the World Financial Center, the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Battery Park City, the FDR Drive, the South Street Seaport, Ellis Island, and Rikers Island.
At present, most of Manhattan's waste is incinerated in NJ, at a waste energy facility. Properly separated paper waste is recycled locally or is processed for further recycling overseas. Glass, metal and plastic are sent to New Jersey, processed and then passed down to various recycling markets. Non-recyclable waste is packed and hauled on trucks to the landfills in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. Most of these landfills are already near or at capacity. Landfills are responsible for 36 percent of all methane emissions in the U.S., one of the most potent contributors to global warming. NYC Residents currently recycle only 17 percent of their total waste - half of what they could be recycling. Plastic film, such as supermarket bags, comprises 7.5 percent of total waste, while clothing and textiles make up 5.7 percent of total waste.
Paper recycling makes money for NYC - it nets approximately $7.5 million after the costs of collection. However, more than 90 percent of printing and writing paper still comes from virgin tree fiber. Exporting NYC garbage to other communities cost city's taxpayers $290 million in 2007 and was estimated to rise to $5.7 million the following year. The cost of collection is in addition to the cost of export.
Food scraps and yard waste make up 22 percent of NYC's waste. This can be composted and used as a cost-effective, nutrient -rich, organic alternative to chemical fertilizers. When NYC collects trees, food scraps and yard waste for composting, it saves money by creating its own soil for landscaping.
Each year diesel trucks carry Manhattan's garbage for 7.8 million miles - the equivalent of driving 312 times around the earth. Currently, there are more than 4,500 recycled-content products available.
NYC-Dept of Sanitation Grow NYC