Can New York Reverse Its Recycling Habits?

New York is typically thought of as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the nation, particularly under the leadership of Michael Bloomberg. The outgoing mayor of the Big Apple has put in place several laws that are aimed at reducing the city's environmental footprint, including replacing all the city's streetlights with LED lamps and introducing all-electric buses into the transportation system. But his most recent effort, and probably his last as mayor, is to reform the city's recycling system to make it much more effective at diverting waste from landfills.

Time Magazine notes that New York currently recycles about 15 percent of its trash, less than half the nationwide average of 34 percent. The publication speculates on a number of reasons why this might be the case, including the fact that curbside pickup in the city is a bit of a mess, with neighbors' trash intermingling and people less willing to devote space to a recycling bin in addition to their trash can.

Mayor Bloomberg has introduced an aggressive plan to tackle food waste, which we detailed a few months back. Essentially, the city is creating a massive composting plant, which will process about 10 percent of New York's food waste, while another 10 percent will be burned to generate electricity. But it will take a sustained effort from Bloomberg's successor, mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, to see these programs through to completion. The good news is that de Blasio has been vocal about his commitment to such efforts, so it's a safe bet that Bloomberg's vision for a cleaner New York will carry forward.

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