October 22, 2004 | General

The One-Two Punch Of Recycling And Composting

BioCycle October 2004, Vol. 45, No. 10, p. 4

When searching for logic in the management of our meandering waste stream, the latest developments in New York City provide a sense of hope for all of us. Beginning on page 22 of this issue, we report on the New Recycling Era for NYC. The city’s comptroller’s office and Mayor now calculate the $70/ton costs of paying haulers to bury residuals in landfills are higher than having long-term contracts with a major recycling firm. This is a major paradigm shift – a giant leap for recycling programs around the nation. “Now we are not dealing with multinational companies that have key problems when it comes to recovering and marketing materials … multinationals in the waste industry that have landfill profit centers and/or incinerators,” said a NYC official. “Now we are dealing with companies that have been in the scrap recovery business for decades … people who concentrate on keeping residuals to a minimum … who manage details of recovery since it’s their bread and butter, not an incidental ‘tagalong’ to their main operations of disposal.” Under the new plan, New York will save about $20 million a year on what it costs to recycle materials.
Calling the decision “A Landmark Move to A Cost-Savings, Economic Boom,” Kate Krebs, executive director of the National Recycling Coalition (p. 22), points out that New York State is home to 4,257 recycling and reuse firms that employ more than 43,600 persons with an annual payroll of over $1.3 billion. “Because of this long-term commitment to recycling, investment will now funnel into and around the city in new enterprises and technologies to recycle the hundreds of tons of materials from New Yorkers’ homes. Economically for the city, recycling has gone from a perceived drain on vital resources to an economic boon,” sums up Krebs.
From California, Richard Anthony of the state’s Resource Recovery Association (p. 24) calls the action the first in a series of steps that will get New York on the road to zero waste. “One option is to separately collect the remaining organics and inerts in household discards and barge them to the Fresh Kills disposal site for composting. Like most current urban burial sites, the site is a perfect location for a resource recovery park for composting and C&D demolition debris recycling,” Anthony observes.
In his view from northern California (p. 25), Dan Knapp – who recently created the Urban Ore Ecopark in Berkeley – hopes that NYC’s site plan will provide room for reuse and composting enterprises and operate alongside the anchor recycler. “Recovering food and other compostable materials, such as soiled paper and yard debris (Central Park must generate a lot), might be the resource categories in the recovery line.”
CEO John Neu of the Hugo Neu Corporation (p. 26) – whose company started recycling steel and other metals in the 1960s – believes its new Brooklyn facility will bring high-quality “green collar” jobs and economic vitality to the area. “Our goal is to attract other manufacturers, who will use the recycled materials from this plant to make new products for consumers and industries.”
As this issue heads for the printer, a headline in The New York Times announces: “Recycling Plan Centers on Organic Waste.” The one-two punch of recycling and composting is ready. Notes the Times: “Not only does such composting result in a material that can be used for fertilizer, but it also releases gases that can be captured for energy.” (And that takes us directly to the BioCycle Energy section on p. 31, and the clear message to redirect the meandering waste stream.) – J.G.

Sign up