New York is a city of 8.5 million people, and that many people produce a lot of trash. The city spends plenty of money getting its garbage into landfill, and it would very much like to change that. New Yorkers pay for garbage disposal through their taxes, so they don’t really see the cost spelled out in so many figures the way a lot of other Americans do.
But that may be about to change.
The city’s Sanitation Department says New Yorkers only recycle 17 percent of their household waste on average. Rhea Eunjooin is originally from South Korea, where recycling laws are quite strict. But she admitted that here in New York, if she’s feeling lazy or in a hurry, she just throws everything in the trash.
“I should recycle better,” she said.
The low level of recycling in the city is a problem, because carting all that trash to landfills takes a lot of resources. Kathryn Garcia, New York City sanitation commissioner, said it costs the city “about $300 million a year for our final disposal.”
Local landfills have filled up, so New Yorkers’ garbage gets hauled upstate and to states as far away as Virginia and South Carolina that have agreed to accept it for a fee. Which is why the city is working with a Michigan firm to come up with a plan that might persuade New Yorkers to recycle and compost more.
Details of the plan have yet to be finalized, but looking at what other cities have done is helpful, said Antonio Reynoso, a New York City councilman from Brooklyn. He chairs the council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management.
“What we’ve known always works, no matter where you are, is ... either incentivizing or fining. One or the other always works.” He said the city would prefer to use a carrot rather than a stick.