The new legislation is now under review by the City Council, and builds on Local Law 19, the city's first recycling bill. When it was passed in 1989 it was widely seen as one of the world's most ambitious recycling programs.
But two decades later it is no longer enough, elected officials argue.
A group met in Astoria Park on May 10 to call for a 21st century upgrade to the city's recycling laws, citing a lack of recycling options in public open spaces in a day and age when residents are more in tune with a cleaner, greener city than ever before.
“I am excited to join my colleagues in promoting the public spaces recycling legislation,” said Councilwoman Letitia James, chair of the Sanitation and Solid Waste Committee. She said successful recycling efforts in Astoria Park and Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn have made it “easier for everyone” to recycle, and could be replicated throughout the city.
The legislation would expand plastic recycling considerably by requiring the Department of Sanitation to start recycling rigid plastic materials such as flower pots and takeout containers. The measure would take effect after a new recycling facility opens in Brooklyn in 2012, and would divert more than 8,000 tons of plastic from landfills and incinerators each year, according to city estimates.
The law would also create the position of recycling coordinator at every city school and agency; these recycling czars would be charged with increasing recycling options inside of cafeterias, classrooms and all city-run and city-owned buildings.
And in another move to update Local Law 19, the new bill would implement a tiered fine system for those who don't recycle properly. Currently, residential and commercial buildings are fined the same amount for recycling violations, regardless of their size.
The new law would create a first tier of fines for residential buildings with less than nine units, and a second tier for residential and commercial buildings alike that have nine units or more.
Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. said the legislation would clean the city's parks and improve the environment. “We need to do everything we can to give people the opportunity to help the environment,” he said.