(New York) City Council Increases Fines for Theft of Recyclable Trash

Submitted by Charles Frost on Sun, 09/30/2007 - 20:20.



Published: September 26, 2007


The unmarked trucks had out-of-state license plates. They came through the city at night on regular intervals and left with thousands of tons of rubbish — all of it recyclable.


Department of Sanitation officials say these thefts, which they began investigating earlier this year, were costing the city perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.


The City Council unanimously passed a bill yesterday that would sharply increase fines for people who steal recyclable material from curbsides — to $2,000 from $100 for a first offense, and $5,000 for each subsequent offense within a year.


Officials say the bill is aimed at organized enterprises that use vehicles, which would be impounded under the new law, adding that the $100 fine had not been large enough to prevent these thefts. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill, according to an administration spokesman.


Sanitation officials estimated the city might be losing as much as 15,000 tons of paper a year from
Manhattan alone. Based on the city’s current recycling contract, which pays $10 to $30 a ton, that means an annual loss of $150,000 to $300,000.


That an underground market has developed for the city’s recycled material is a big reversal for a program that took years to find steady footing after a series of court battles and budget cuts in the 1990s. Even the Bloomberg administration, now known for its environmental policies, considered sharply scaling back recycling in its early years, calling it too costly.


“Our recyclable waste that used to be thought of as worthless is getting so valuable that people now see an economic advantage to stealing it,” said Eric A. Goldstein, a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that helped prepare the city’s original recycling law in 1989. “What this sensible legislation does is create a mechanism that would get at the problem of rustlers of recyclables.”


The legislation comes after the Department of Sanitation noticed a 2 percent drop in the amount of paper the city was collecting.


In parts of the
East Side, the amount of paper collected had fallen as much as 25 percent from the previous year, city officials said. An investigation of those areas revealed that unmarked trucks with out-of-state license plates were taking the paper put out for recycling the night before the city’s scheduled pickups.


“It’s a little ironic that five years ago the administration was saying we should end recycling because there was no market for it,” said City Councilman Michael E. McMahon, a Staten Island Democrat and chairman of the Council’s Sanitation Committee.


From: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/26/nyregion/26recycling.html?_r=2&ref=nyregion&oref=slogin&oref=slogin