What Goes Around: NYC Recycles Paper

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ron Gonen, New York City's first-ever deputy commissioner of sanitation, recycling and sustainability, joins us weekly in April to talk about recycling in NYC.  This week: paper and coordinating recycling among cities, businesses and manufacturers.


Ron Gonen

Comments [36]

Manuel from Bronx

Why are schools not REQUIRED TO RECYCLE? WHY ARE SCHOOLS NOT FINED FOR NOT recycling? I have been in many DOE schools and have not seen any true recycling program happening.

Apr. 25 2013 10:25 PM
Emily Skyrm from Bronx

I called in regarding our business in the Bronx that shreds and recycles paper and hires a workforce mostly of people with disabilities. Ron asked me to email him, do you have his email address? Did he give it out?

Apr. 24 2013 03:21 PM
Margaret from UWS

Caller re. dog poop bags: "compostable" plastic so far means industrially, not that it's includable for garden compost. Try my idea: Puppy Poop Papers, AKA sheets of kitchen/deli waxed paper. Train the housebreaking age - and older ones, if possible - to aim for a sheet of paper you put down, then pick it up by the corners and twist close. No more plastic bags in the corner cans. Maybe pick up with scooper, and put in paper lunch bags. Plastic shopping bags are collected in a bin in the doorway of Gristede's. I've been including other packaging, drycleaning bags, because they say "film" plastic.

Apr. 18 2013 06:44 PM

Andy Lee from Manhattan wrote,

"Is there a good way to recycle hardcover books? My understanding is that they should not go into regular recycling with the newspapers and magazines."

What about donating the books to a library, school, nursing home, etc.?

In the building I grew up in, people would leave books they wanted to get rid of on the table in the lobby, where people could take them.

Apr. 18 2013 04:03 PM
Bruce from NYC

Yes, it is supposed to be re-use, reduce, and recycle. With all the bottled water bottles, reduce sort of went out the window.

Apr. 18 2013 12:44 PM

...or, rather:

"'Recycling' may make you feel better but, it is not the answer, unfortunately."

It's not the "whole" answer.

Just to clarify.

Apr. 18 2013 12:02 PM

Linda from Manhattan ~

Textile reclamation as close as Union Square:

Apr. 18 2013 11:59 AM
Bruce from NYC

Someone called in and wondered aloud why there are no re-cycling receptacles on street corners, or so few. As someone who works as a janitor for a co-op on the West Side, I have to say that it struck me as just damned stupid. I may back away from "damned stupid" at some point, but right now that's what I am going with. I have to clean up after my fellow NYers. That would be all of those people who can't seem to wait to drop their litter, their soda bottles, their soda cans, their dog waste on the sidewalk or the gutter, even as there is a trash can waiting for them not fifty or forty or thirty or twenty or ten or five feet away. Apparently that empty McDonald's bag is oh, so very heavy. The way the City handles that is that we get fined unless we (or in this case, I) clean up after my fellow citizens. I don't even want to venture a wild guess as to when the last time one of my fellow citizens get a ticket for littering. Buildings being the easier target in the end. Can't just pick up and go, don't you know. Easy pickings that. (Sometimes I wonder if there isn't an equal protection under the law issue there.) So what will a recycling can become? Another opportunity for a dedicated revenue stream, and one that is untainted by any actual effort to actually enforce the laws as they are broken by citizens. Hey, way to go, Mr. Mayor. Better to work at banning large sugary drinks than to ban eight ounce water bottles or ban some uses of plastics that don't fit in the City's recycling programme.

Apr. 18 2013 11:58 AM
joan from Tarrytown

We compost at our home and for a family of four in suburbia, our weekly garbage is about 1/2 garbage bag. I have great compost for our garden.

Is there a website where we can contact Mr. Gonen offline?

Apr. 18 2013 11:08 AM
Joel from Somerset NJ

Why is it always necessary to use a bag, of any kind? No bag is the best solution. I realize "some" items need a bag, but not everything

Apr. 18 2013 11:04 AM
Kal from Brooklyn

There are a lot of box containers that cannot be recycled due to the wax coating on them (such as orange juice and half gallon milk containers). Much of them end up being put in with recycle trash. Is there any hope of this type of packaging eventually being recyclable?

Apr. 18 2013 11:00 AM
Susan from nyc

There has to be a big advertising campaign to get the word out. Years ago there were signs everywhere that said, " Don't Litter, Keep NYC clean." We need more of that to get people to put trash in the cans.

Apr. 18 2013 10:59 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Rockefeller Center definitely does NOT recycle.

Apr. 18 2013 10:58 AM
Linda from Manhattan

Would Mr. Gonen please tell us more about recycling textiles, such as where and when? Thank you.

Apr. 18 2013 10:58 AM
Katherine from Harlem

Two questions: 1. In the subways, the trash bins say they will sort out newspapers, etc. to recycle. Does that really happen? I can see sorting out plastic or metal from a trash bin, but how can they sort out paper when it's drenched in coffee or other muck?

2. I work at a public college, and I see the same thing as Edward's comment you just read, but this is a large college and we produce TONS of paper. What can be done? Why isn't there better enforcement at a public institution?

Apr. 18 2013 10:58 AM
David from UWS

Not about paper but...

I had tried composting in my small Manhattan back yard, and I found it became a glorious food trough for many, many Rats! How can I compost without increasing the rodent problem?

Apr. 18 2013 10:57 AM

i go to a school filled with moderately- to highly-educated people. Recycling bins, clearly marked as such, are treated as garbage cans by most people. It makes me depressed and cynical.

Apr. 18 2013 10:57 AM
mc from Brooklyn

carolita: where do you buy the biodegradable "poop" bags? Are they widely available and reasonably priced. I don't have a dog but my teen-aged son takes care of two boxers occasionally.

Apr. 18 2013 10:56 AM
Roberta from Brooklyn

Is recycling in the public school curriculum? It wasn't when my daughter, now a high school junior, was in elementary school in Chinatown. Kids can teach their parents how to comply.

Apr. 18 2013 10:54 AM

Separate cans are great idea in theory. But people in general do not seem smart enough to make the differentiation of what a blue can means, what a green can means, they just dump trash into any one. Sorry- genreal population lacks critical thinking and not capable of basic intelligence test.

Apr. 18 2013 10:54 AM
Robert from NYC

You ought to check out those who place their house garbage in the corner trash cans. There is one building on my block where 90% of the tenants don't want to walk down to their basement to throw out their trash and I see them carr sometimes very large bags of house garbage to the corner and dump it in the street cans leaving no room for just small street trash for which they are placed on the corner!

Apr. 18 2013 10:54 AM
Andy Lee from Manhattan

Is there a good way to recycle hardcover books? My understanding is that they should not go into regular recycling with the newspapers and magazines.

Apr. 18 2013 10:53 AM

In it's current incarnation, our materials reclamation system is actually "downcycling".

Each pass through the reclamation system, a given material losses more and more of it's integrity and usability.

William McDonough and Michael Braungart spell this phenomena in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

"Recycling" may make you feel better but, it is not the answer, unfortunately.

Apr. 18 2013 10:53 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Many NYC garbage cans have a sign stating that the trash deposited will be recycled. Is this true?

Apr. 18 2013 10:53 AM
dante from NYC

why don't we recycle Styrofoam? it isn't an easy material to recycle but possible. using paper will deplete the only defense we have for climate change, trees.

Apr. 18 2013 10:52 AM
Josh Karan from Washington Heights

Why contract out recycling at whatever the cost is?

Why not a NYC owned recycling plant which will always have a guaranteed supply of materials?

Apr. 18 2013 10:52 AM
John Tucker from BK

Please ask him about Tetra-pak's and similar: are all of these types of containers recyclable?

Apr. 18 2013 10:52 AM
Robyn from 11101

When will the city council law to recycle all plastics go into effect? I heard that it was dependent on a new recycling facility being built, which was slated to open in 2013. Thanks.

Apr. 18 2013 10:52 AM
carolita from NYC

what about those biodegradable poop bags that supposedly degrade at the rate of an apple core? I've been diligently buying those for my pooper scooper use. No one wants to use paper to pick up poo. I won't go into details, but think about it.

Apr. 18 2013 10:51 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

At a previous job we had two garbage cans in our cubes.

A Garbage and a Recycle can.

We dutifully sorted our waste.

When the cleaning people would come by in the evening, pushing a tall garbage can on wheels, they would empty both garbage cans into the same rolling garbage can!

Apr. 18 2013 10:51 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Has he ever scooped poop in a newspaper? Plus doesn't this assume that newspapers in paper form will survive in perpetuity?

Apr. 18 2013 10:50 AM
Matthew from Manhattan

If I don't have a canvas bag, I ask for plastic, because I re-use them as garbage bags. That keeps me from buying garbage bags. But don't some grocery stores have to accept plastic bags to be recycled?

Apr. 18 2013 10:50 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Plastic bags can be reused many times, & many supermarkets now accept them for recycling, even though the NYC recycling program doesn't. I pull out clean plastic bags from the recycling bins in my building (too often from the paper bin!) & reuse them till they're about to fall apart, then take them to a store to be recycled.

Apr. 18 2013 10:49 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

My question is: WHY DON'T BUSINESSES IN NEW YORK CITY HAVE TO RECYCLE? I've worked at plenty of offices in the City and none of them takes recycling seriously and they never get fined. They use private waste companies and no one ever checks to see if the paper and other recyclables are being separated out and recycled. Meanwhile, private homeowners in the outer boroughs get fined if there's something in the wrong bin.

Apr. 18 2013 10:48 AM
Nancy from Manhattan

Brian, please ask why NYC allows delis to pack sandwiches in clear plastic clamshell boxes, which (to my knowledge) are NOT recyclable, whereas what they traditionally packed them in (foil and paper) ARE recyclable. Please ask.

Apr. 18 2013 10:48 AM
Sara from Bushwick

Will there come a point when we are not required to put our recyclables in large plastic bags?

Apr. 18 2013 10:48 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.