Recycling in the City

One of the city's rare recycling receptacles. (EPA photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Sophia Kelley

Recycling has long been a basic tenet of environmentalism and today is something many people do automatically. But how committed are New Yorkers? According to a recent article in the New York Times, not very. Today, only 15 percent of waste collected by the city’s Sanitation Department is recycled. Some sources say that up to 35 percent of the city’s waste is recyclable. How are we continuing to fail in an area that seems so basic?

The problem is multi-faceted. For one thing, many people continue to discard recyclables in the trash. Personally, I don’t understand why people can’t just select the correct bin or have a separate bag in their apartment. It seems simple enough. Another problem is that the city only accepts two types of plastic. Other major cities in the country accept more types of plastic. Finally, there just aren’t enough public recycling receptacles. Most pedestrians aren’t going to carry their empty recyclables with them all around town until they find one of the few and far between locations for depositing their recycling. Another excuse I’ve heard is that it’s OK not to recycle because there are plenty of people in New York who make their living picking through the trash for bottles and cans. This may be true to some extent, but clearly doesn’t address the issue of paper, cardboard, or other materials.

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