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Free Newspapers Saved From Becoming Litter

2013 January 28

By Linda Longo

"I thought to take the photo after I picked up the papers, but notice the green NYC recycling box in the background."

On many New York City street corners you’ll see those free newspaper boxes.   There’s one on my block in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.   Every so often I’ll notice our box is tipped over and the wind has scattered the free papers and everyone walks past oblivious. I’ve done it too. I’ll walk past thinking “well, I should pick it all up because a garbage can is right there”,  then I’m two blocks past and figure someone else will do the good deed.   This Sunday on my way to the local farmer’s market on 5th avenue and 4th street I saw that the wind was really enjoying the free papers.  The entire box was tipped over and the flimsy lid was open.  I placed my grocery cart off to the side and began to pick up the heaps of newspapers.  I quickly noticed the papers were not badly damaged so I righted the tipped over box and proceeded to place the papers back inside.  The few that were muddy I conveniently placed in the green NYC newspaper recycling box just feet away.   No one pointed and laughed at me like I secretly imagined they would.  People kept to their business, but I hope they noticed me because maybe the next time they see spilled free papers they’ll do the same.

I don’t go around picking up trash on a regular basis because I don’t want to get dirty, but that’s my hang up.  We need to understand that trash makes it way to the streets and into the sewer openings where it clogs our drainage system.  And when as little as 2” of rain happens our NYC sewers can get overwhelmed and sometimes this trash ends up in our waterways.  So if we all take a little effort to think about putting our gum wrappers in our pockets till we pass a trash can, or picking up the spilled newspapers, we’ll all contribute just a little to the welfare of our city.  And by the way, on the way home from the market I saw a lady open the free newspaper box and take one.  That made my day.

About the author: Linda started her career with EPA in 1998 working in the water quality program. For the past 7 years she’s helped regulated facilities understand how to be in compliance with EPA enforcement requirements. Outside of work Linda enjoys exploring neighborhoods of NYC, photographing people in their everyday world, and sewing handbags made from recycled materials that she gives to her friends.

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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One Response leave one →
  1. Joseph Dodge permalink
    April 24, 2013

    Speaking of free newspapers. I think the biggest culprits are amNY and Metro. Every morning on my way to work I find at least ten of these newspapers on stairwells, benches, platforms, subway cars and even in the wastebaskets at the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall station. On my way home I’ll find about 50 of them in the public space recycling container container. I always hated the idea of discarding a newspaper that has been read once, especially if it is perfectly reusable.

    I have been making it a point to collect them and deposit them back them in the containers on the sidewalk. (I used to put them back in the pile for the hawkers to hand out again but they become ghetto)

    It also would not hurt if amNY stapled their paper so that if they are blown by the wind the pages are not separated.

    Perhaps I can start a movement of volunteers or even employees to be paid a small stipend to do this. It would save the MTA on cleanup costs and also the free newspapers, amNY and Metro lots of money because by reusing papers they can lower their print volume.

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