Vol. 12, No. 22 Nov. 18 - Dec. 1, 1999


Weekly Recycling Slow to Return to Borough


Wondering when that mountainous pile of recyclables in your apartment building will get picked up? Talk to your neighbors and you'll see that you're not alone.

But the Bronx is alone. Every borough in New York City now gets weekly recycling pickups except the Bronx, which will continue to get alternate week service until April 2000.

This has Bronx officials making a stink. "The issue is -- why does the Bronx always have to be last?" asked Arlene Mukoko, a spokeswoman for Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. "It's a kick in the face."

Not only is the Bronx last to get weekly service, but its April slot falls way behind the other boroughs. Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn went weekly in June, and Queens went on-line in August.

Only two out of 12 Bronx sanitation districts -- districts 8 and 12, which include Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Wakefield -- currently receive weekly recycling pickups. (Most Norwood News readers live in district 7.) Bronx officials accused the city of catering to the middle class and ignoring the poor. "If you look at the demographics of the Bronx, they're whiter and they're wealthier," said Steve Hammer, chair of the Bronx Solid Waste Advisory Board and co-chair of the citywide Recycling Advisory Board.

Even those residents and institutions most inclined to recycle are, in effect, being encouraged not to, according to Hammer. "Schools are being forced to store empty milk and orange juice containers for up to two weeks," he said. "Can you image all those cartons sitting there in storage? It's not reasonable. So schools don't do it and they're violating city law."

The results of sparse recycling are reflected in the borough's lagging recycling rates. According to the Department of Sanitation, six of the bottom 10 recycling districts out of New York City's 59 districts are in the Bronx. And the borough-wide 15.4 percent recycling rate is significantly lower than the 19 percent city average. "You would think the DOS would be interested in improving recycling in low-performing areas," Hammer said.

Bronx residents can remember a time not too long ago when they did get weekly curbside recycling pickups, but that was scaled back to every two weeks in late 1996 due to budget cuts. After much haggling with the mayor, who initially vetoed $9.4 million for weekly recycling, the City Council unanimously approved a bill last December to once again phase in weekly pickups. According to Rica Rezler, a City Council spokeswoman, council members were inundated with complaints about the cutbacks in recycling service. Also, increased pickups were necessary to fulfill a 25% recycling quota mandated by Local Law 19, written in 1989.

So the City Council wrote the law, and the DOS implemented it, but just who decided that the Bronx would be the last slated for weekly pick-ups? The DOS said the City Council and the administration were responsible. But although the City Council set a loose time line for implementation, a spokesman for Councilman Stanley Michels, who co-sponsored the bill, said that the order by which boroughs and districts would receive weekly service was decided in the mayor's office. The mayor's office did not return calls from the Norwood News.

The Bronx's shabby treatment surprises few. Ferrer and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani are political enemies "because Ferrer is outspoken against the mayor," Mukoko said. "And this is coupled with the fact that the people are among the poorest in the city."

Bronx residents see the recycling issue as part of a long pattern of abuse concerning sanitation issues. "The South Bronx has more than 30 waste transfer sanitation sites," Hammer said. "Why are we receiving poor sanitation service when we are already getting an unfair share the way it is?"

Despite the obstacles, Ferrer recently launched a recycling education program involving both students and businesses. The Waste Prevention Program selected three pieces of student artwork and slogans to decorate posters, and this month the posters were hung in businesses all over the Bronx.

"The city's decision to leave the Bronx as last ... is troublesome given the success of our education campaigns and the interest on the part of thousands of our residents on being responsible in their treatment of garbage," Ferrer said in a press release decrying the situation.

Meanwhile, Bronxites aren't content with waiting until April. Hammer and environmental activists are lobbying council members to introduce a bill that would speed up implementation of weekly recycling in the Bronx.

Where We Stand
June 1999 Recycling Rates
by Community Board

CB 1        10.4%             CB 7        18.2%
CB 2 13.6% CB 8 24.7%
CB 3 5.9% CB 9 12.6%
CB 4 10.2% CB 10 24.5%
CB 5 12.5% CB 11 19.1%
CB 6 10.0% CB 12 21.8%

Recycling Rates by Borough

Manhattan            24.0%
Staten Island 23.0%
Queens 21.0%
Brooklyn 20.3%
Bronx 15.4%
City Average 19.0%

Source: Department of Sanitation

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