According to the Sanitation Department, New Yorkers generate about 16 pounds of waste each week, but we only recycle about 15 percent of it.
It may seem like a remedial lesson in environmentalism, but recycling is still one of the most important things we can do to help keep New York City green.
Too much waste. 16 pounds of waste per person, per week in a city of 8 million is a lot of trash! Unfortunately only a small fraction of that is being diverted to recycling plants. The best-case scenario is that trash winds up in landfills, where it’s left to decompose for hundreds of years.
Polluted water. But in the worst case – where trash is littered and not thrown away properly – it could wind up in our oceans and rivers. In fact, it’s estimated that 18 percent of all litter ends up in streams and waterways as pollution.
Uncontrolled fire. On top of that, a fire starts somewhere in the world every 12 minutes because of litter.
How you can help...
Support city efforts. Fortunately, the mayor is already leading the city toward better recycling practices. In January 2012, Bloomberg set a goal for New York to double our recycling over the next five years. As part of his plan, our recycling program will expand to include more kinds of plastics, and a new recycling processing plant will open in Brooklyn in 2013.
Learn the system. In the meantime, all New Yorkers should take the time to decode their recycling bins. Putting the right waste in the right bin will make sure stuff that can be recycled actually is.
Reuse, reuse, reuse. Finally, we should all be aware of how much trash we create, and try to reuse whenever possible – bring a refillable water bottle with you to work, remember your cloth shopping bags when you go shopping.