Bloomberg makes effort to expand electronics recycling in New York

| September 30, 2013

With time running out on his mayoral tenure, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is ramping up eleventh hour efforts to improve his city’s recycling programs, focusing on electronics recycling in New York.

Despite being the nation’s largest city, the Big Apple notoriously lags behind other large cities in percentage of waste recycled. The rather dismal 15 percent recycling rate pales in comparison to that of Seattle and Toronto (both around 50 percent) and San Francisco (an impressive 77 percent).

Bloomberg’s latest target— electronics recycling — has been a hot topic in 2013, and New York City has jumped on the bandwagon.

electronics recycling in New York

With New York’s expanded recycling program, some residents won’t have to trek out to designated drop off centers. From U.S. Army Environmental Command.

As of late September, “residents in 15 buildings in four boroughs will be able to deposit their non-functioning iPads, Kindles, hard drives, computer mice, laptops, TVs, printers, scanners, cell phones and video game consoles in a designated recycling room or bin,” reports Dana Rubinstein for Capital News.

Fifteen buildings might not sound like much, but the effort has to start somewhere. This is a decidedly quiet roll out, but it has big potential. In order to participate in the program, buildings must simply have ten or more units. That means that “more than half of the city’s housing stock” is eligible.

As Rubinstein reports, “The department of sanitation expects the voluntary program to expand quickly.” That’s good, because as of 2015, it will be illegal to dispose of certain electronic equipment in the trash in New York City.

So what happens to those recycling rooms or bins? The building supervisor simply has to place a call, and a city contractor will pick up and haul away the goods. The rule is that a pick-up may be made when: a) the bin is full, or b) there are at least 20 eligible items sitting in the recycling room.

Sure, this program requires building supervisors to allocate space for electronics recycling, but program administrators believe that this is preferable to old televisions stacking up on the curb or in utility rooms.

After all, prior to this program, electronics recycling in New York City was no piece of cake. Imagine hauling a TV down several flights of stairs — and then having to take it on the subway or in a cab to an appropriate drop-off spot. No, thank you!

electronics recycling in new york

Buildings with ten or more units will eventually be eligible for the electronics recycling program. From Adam Piontek.

David Hirschler, the sanitation department’s director of waste prevention, acknowledges the problems currently facing would-be recyclers: “With 50 percent of the population not having access to a vehicle, it’s not necessarily a convenient option to have to bring your electronics back to a retailer or a [recycling] event,” he said.

Hirschler also points out that while, relatively speaking, electronics waste makes up a small portion of the overall garbage problem in New York City, the category also comprises “the largest portion of hazardous materials in the waste stream.”

In other words, nipping this issue in the bud will have impact that goes far beyond the small uptick in recycling percentage. When it’s too difficult to recycle appropriately, residents are inclined to improperly dispose of items — and that means hazardous materials can be leached into the ground and water supply.

Bloomberg may be on his way out, but the city contractor responsible for pick-up, Electronic Recyclers International, landed a 10-year contract for the job. They’ll send most of the recycled materials to plants in Massachusetts, “where they will be broken down into sellable components.”

Category: Electronics

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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