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Time to Recycle, MTA

2011 July 27

A woman reaches out for a newspaper in front of the Astor Place Station in the East Village before heading down the stairs for her morning subway commute.

By Donna Somboonlakana

New York City, with its magnificent people, structures and convenient transportation system, is in need of recycling bins for glass, plastic, cans and paper, just about everywhere.  The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has the ultimate opportunity to make significant improvements in the way everyone views and manages the waste we all generate each day by living and working in NYC.  In an effort to create a more pleasant environment for everyone, the MTA could easily reduce enormous amounts of waste, produce green jobs, generate income, and make NYC a more livable city by simply placing recycling bins onto the platforms…what an incredible thought!  So, how can we get the MTA to give us a recycling program?

A recycling program appears to work best when there is a continuous supply of recyclable material.  In 2010, the annual ridership on the NYC subway systems was 1.6 billion people. I say that is a match! I understand that change is a hard thing to do, but sometimes it pays off. I made a simple commuting change when I first began working for EPA 21 years ago which resulted in my saving over $40,000.  Born, raised and still residing in New Rochelle, I used to take Metro North, then take the 4 or 5 subway to work.  Now, I drive only one extra mile to the Bronx, park for free and take the 5 train all the way downtown without having the stress of rushing to catch another train. Sweet.

Extending that a little bit, can you imagine the change we could accomplish together if we all decided to recycle our reusable products as part of our daily lives? Next time you look at your empty bottle or can, please give a moment of thought to the fact that it can be made into a new product.  Remember that you are reducing the consumption of new materials and that you are reducing energy usage to make all of those bottles, cans, newspapers and plastics.  Know that you are also reducing air pollution when we don’t have to incinerate our used products and that you are also reducing water pollution caused by landfills.  It should make us happy to know that each individual can help create a more productive and pleasant environment with each and every product that is recycled.

So, how can we convince the MTA to make a change for the better and start a recycling program?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. miriam byrne permalink
    July 27, 2011

    keep up the good work in keeping our planet and people in joining a global commitment to going green in whatever way possible. It saves tree’s and habitat and aquatic life and also makes a healthy and wise decision to live a toxic free environment for generations to come.

    Greening the Apple article was a delight to read, look forward to reading more Greening the Apple.

  2. July 28, 2011

    information on topics that a great deal are interested on. The point that the information indicated are all initial hand on actual experiences even assist more. Maintain doing what you do as we enjoy reading your work. Allyson Spiece

  3. Chris Riso permalink
    August 4, 2011

    For some reason I’ve been under the impression that the subway platform bins are some kind of single-stream system that collects trash and recyclables together for later sorting.

    I’ve not looked into it before but a quick Google search just returned this:

    “The MTA has determined that the security risks and additional cost of maintaining separate bins with a separate collection system for recyclables is not warranted, and they decided to arrange for post-collection retrieval of recyclable materials from NYC subway platform waste.”

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/recycling/publicspace.shtml#subways

    How much of the recyclable material is actually recovered is of course another story.

    • Donna Somboonlakana permalink
      August 5, 2011

      Thank you for all responding.

      Hi Chris,

      I also read the paragraph you sent before I wrote this blog.

      I tell you why I feel strongly about having a separate collection system for all reusable materials. When you have post-collection recycling, newspapers get soiled from food, drinks, diapers and who knows what. Bottles, cans and plastics bottles are crushed with all the garbage in the sanitation trucks, so much of that material is no longer usable.

      Regarding the security or terrorist issue, I try not to live my life worrying about the threats that we all face each and every day just by living and working in NYC or anywhere for that matter. While I try to be mindful of my own security, one never knows what can happen so I don’t want to accept it as an excuse.

      Maybe we can be different and come up with a design that would be acceptable. I just thought of an idea I want to share with you. What if we used those large netted bags that could hang on a wall when you first walk into the subway? It could be a cute little recycling center with no bins and it would be easy for a recycling crew to access it. I suppose some people would think it is an eyesore, but I would think they are beautiful!

  4. July 30, 2012

    Waste collection for recycling the good to reduce the waste in landfill and also to reduce the need of landfills. It is a nice step to save our planet.

  5. July 31, 2012

    Remember that you are reducing the consumption of new materials and that you are reducing energy usage to make all of those bottles, cans, newspapers and plastics. It should make us happy to know that each individual can help create a more productive and pleasant environment with each and every product that is recycled.

  6. Donna permalink
    March 8, 2013

    I agree.

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