Last week, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) convened its first working group meeting to brainstorm how to implement a new program aimed at encouraging New Yorkers to recycle more called “Save-As-You-Throw.”
This type of a program was a hot topic at the NYLCV Education Fund’s panel discussion last year on organic waste and was among its recommendations on how to divert more waste from landfills.
Currently, DSNY sends more than 3 million tons of waste to far-away landfills each year. As the trash degrades, it producing significant amounts of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.
A number of efforts have aimed at encouraging New Yorkers, whose recycling rates are creeping upward but still far behind the national average, to be both more thoughtful about the waste they generate and more attentive to what goods can be recycled. These include programs like residential composting and education campaigns.
Save-As-You-Throw would create an economic incentive-based program that would save New Yorkers money for producing less waste. This isn’t a new idea. In fact, cities around the county and around the world are trying similar strategies. In San Francisco, citizens select the size of their refuse bin and pay more per month for a larger bin. Seoul, South Korea requires citizens to purchase government-sanctioned garbage bags. And research shows that these types of policies work.
In New York, however, the focus is on giving people an incentive, rather than a penalty, such as a tax credit for throwing away less. Most cities that use economic incentives to reduce how much you throw away employ a fee-based model. Such a program would be a ground-breaking and innovative step toward achieving NYC’s ambitious ‘Zero Waste’ goal. NYLCV is excited to see the City moving forward on this proposal and we look forward to continuing to work with them to devise and implement a successful program.