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Plastic Toys and Food Containers Now Recyclable, Mayor Announces

 Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pictured here in 2008, annouced an expanded plastics recycling program on April 24, 2013.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pictured here in 2008, annouced an expanded plastics recycling program on April 24, 2013.
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Chris Hondros

CITY HALL — If it’s hard and plastic, recycle it.

That’s the message Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent Wednesday as he announced the city’s biggest expansion of its recycling program in 25 years.

“Rigid” plastics like yogurt cups, take-out food containers, toys and CD cases that were previously unable to be recycled can now be tossed into the same bin as plastic bottles and jugs, Bloomberg said.

The new program, which began Wednesday, aims to take the guesswork out of plastics recycling and boost the city’s recycling efforts, Bloomberg said.

“Starting today, if it’s a rigid plastic — any rigid plastic — recycle it,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “There is no more worrying about confusing numbers on the bottom of the container.”

The city anticipates that 50,000 tons of plastics sent to landfills each year will now be recycled. And because it’s cheaper to recycle than to ship waste to landfills, the city will eventually save more than $600,000, the mayor said.

The program coincides with the opening of a new household recycling plant on the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, later this year, the city said. The plant, operated by SIMS Municipal Recycling, will be the largest in North America, the mayor said.

To avoid confusion, New Yorkers will receive mailers that describe the expansion of the recycling program and include illustrations of what they can recycle and how.

The city will also send decals to landlords and homeowners to replace the current labels on their recycling bins. The new program started Wednesday, although the city won’t begin enforcement until rules are adopted in July.

The mayor also said the city is expanding its food-waste composting pilot program, which is now running in Brooklyn and Manhattan public schools, to residents of Staten Island’s Westerleigh neighborhood next month. The city is slated to expand the composting to other neighborhoods this fall and to all city schools over the next two years, he said.

Bloomberg has pledged to double the amount of waste diverted from landfills by 2017, and recently backed a plan to ban Styrofoam takeout containers. But he has been criticized for overseeing plummeting recycling rates in the city from 2002 to 2011.