Spitzer Launches Comprehensive Recycling Initiative

In an initiative to bolster New York’s commitment to recycling, Attorney General Spitzer today released a comprehensive report on recycling, unveiled legislation to expand the bottle deposit law and strengthen recycling statutes, and announced possible litigation against a community that abandoned its recycling program.

"Recycling is unquestionably one of the most important efforts we make to conserve natural resources and reduce our dependence on landfills and incinerators," said Spitzer. "Recycling makes enormous economic and environmental sense and I am fully committed to expanding and enforcing recycling laws so that we can realize their full benefits."

Spitzer released a comprehensive report "Are We Throwing It All Away? A Call For New York to Recommit to Recycling" which includes the results of a statewide survey that found problems with enforcement of recycling laws. The report documents that despite strong local recycling ordinances and wide public support, there is uneven compliance by waste haulers and little enforcement by local governments. For example, the survey found that while New Yorkers overwhelmingly support recycling, 68 percent of local governments stated that the public has observed waste haulers combining recyclables with mixed trash, in violation of state law.

Spitzer also unveiled two pieces of legislation designed to strengthen and expand current laws:

  • The Recycling Enforcement Act clarifies current law to prohibit waste haulers from dumping recyclables at landfills and incinerators; and,
  • The Bottle Bill Expansion Act acknowledges the significant sales growth of non-carbonated beverages such as iced tea, bottled water and fruit juices by adding them to the state’s existing container deposit law.

"Dumping recyclables into landfills and incinerators is bad for the environment and it betrays the effort of every New Yorker who conscientiously separates recyclables from the trash before setting them out on the curb," said Spitzer. "I intend to work with the Legislature and the Governor to strengthen current law, making it absolutely clear that recyclable materials must be recycled."

Spitzer’s initiative to expand the bottle law drew praise from recycling experts and the container redemption industry.

Frank Procopio, co-founder of the New York State Bottle and Can Redemption Association and the owner of a Syracuse bottle redemption center said: "I strongly endorse Attorney General Spitzer’s efforts to include non-carbonated beverages in the state bottle deposit law. This bill is crucial to keep up with current market trends."

Gordon Maxwell, recycling coordinator for Putnam County, said: "Now is the time to expand, not relax, recycling across New York. I applaud Attorney General Spitzer for his commitment to strengthening enforcement of recycling laws. As a local recycling coordinator, we need all the help we can get from Albany to increase recycling to even higher levels."

Spitzer also announced that he has sent legal papers to officials in the City of Amsterdam giving them one month to enact a resolution to reinstate recycling in the city or face a lawsuit.

The Solid Waste Management Act of 1988 required every community in the state to have a local recycling program in place by 1992. Amsterdam complied with the law until January 1, 2000 when it became the first municipality in the state to abandon its recycling program. Since then, the city has illegally disposed of tons of recyclable newsprint, glass, metals and plastics in landfills.

"The City of Amsterdam violated state law when it abandoned recycling," said Spitzer. "My office has been in close contact with city officials to remind them of their legal obligation to recycle and to offer our assistance to help them comply with the law. If the city does not adopt a local recycling ordinance within a month, I will have no option but to initiate court action to uphold the law."

The Attorney General’s recycling report is available online at: www.ag.ny.gov