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Bloomberg Changes Tune on Recycling and Backs Styrofoam Ban

By  Jill Colvin and Andrea Swalec | February 7, 2013 2:43pm 

MANHATTAN — Restricting New Yorkers' use of Styrofoam takeout containers would be good for the environment as well as the city's balance sheet, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday morning.

Bloomberg, who previously slashed recycling in the city to save money, is now backing the possible ban on Styrofoam being eyed by the city Sanitation Departmentwhich DNAinfo.com New York was first to report Wednesday — saying the new rules would save taxpayers cash.

"Landfills cost us a lot of money," he said. "If we could recycle a lot of stuff, it would be much better for the environment and better for our bottom line. And we’re looking at a lot of things. One of the things you might want to do — and a lot of other places have — is ban things like Styrofoam that don’t … degrade quickly in landfills."

Manhattan Recycle
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Billy Figueroa

Bloomberg's new argument in favor of recycling is a stark change from 2002, when he suspended glass and plastic recycling to cut costs.

That decision caused the recycling rate to plummet to just 11 percent in 2003 after years of steady gains — and it hasn’t recovered since.

It costs the city approximately $300 million to haul 3.2 million tons of solid waste to landfills each year. The city's recycling rate has sunk during Bloomberg's term, as DNAinfo reported in April.

His comments at a press conference touting the benefits of technology on health outcomes follow statements by Ron Gonen, deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability, on Monday at a West Village community meeting.

Gonen said a policy that is now in its early stages would focus on businesses that buy huge amounts of Styrofoam, not on individual consumers.

"The onus would not be on the consumer," Gonen said.