SEEMS YOU CANíT PLEASE
ANYONE. People complained for years about having to recycle their trash.
Then they complained when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg canceled most recycling
to save the city money. And they positively howled in confusion when he
restored some recycling but cut collections to every other week.
So it should not be surprising
that many New Yorkers greeted the news that full weekly recycling of glass,
plastic, metal and paper would resume in four weeks less than
"Now we're going to have to
worry about the glass?" Mary Owens, the superintendent of an apartment
building overlooking Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, said yesterday. "The
people in the building won't recycle glass unless a miracle happens."
City officials say the new
schedule, beginning April 1, should clear up any confusion that crept in as
the city lurched in recent years from one recycling regimen to the next.
But the fact is that many New
Yorkers never quite got the hang of it to begin with. A Marist College poll
in 2001 - before the gutting of the recycling program - found most New
Yorkers scoring below 50 percent on a pop quiz about whether 12 common
household items could be recycled. (Only 3 out of 918 respondents got all 12
A partial tour of the city
yesterday found that even in two community districts, one encompassing much
of brownstone Brooklyn and one in the northeast Bronx - where recycling
participation was once high but fell by more than a third during the dark
years - confusion was still prevalent.
"It's still very unclear in my
mind," said Jon Naiman, 38, a photographer in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. "I
don't see other households are getting it either. My impression is I'm a
fairly attuned person and I can't figure it out."
For example, Mr. Naiman said,
"I don't think you're supposed to mix cardboard and paper." In fact, you
"And,'' he asked, "what about
laundry detergent jugs? Are they recyclable?" Indeed they are, as are all
narrow-necked plastic bottles with the little "1" or "2" inside the
triangular recycling logo at the base.
In Woodlawn in the Bronx, Anne
Marie Weyrauch, it turns out, had the rules wrong. "Now glass is going in
with the regular garbage?" she asked. No, she was told, glass will now be
"That's funny," said Ms.
Weyrauch, 33. "I just left the glass in the clear bag today and put it out
to be recycled."
Ms. Weyrauch is no slouch when
it comes to dealing with bureaucracy. She works for a car dealership and
said she had no problem navigating the complexities of obtaining
registrations and license plates for customers' cars. But there is something
about recycling policies that seems to short-circuit some people's brains.
"I remember they posted signs that they're not recycling something," she
said. "But I forgot what it is."
For the record, here are some
things that may be recycled: pizza boxes, envelopes with windows, aerosol
cans and toasters.
Here are some things that may
not be recycled: plastic shopping bags, clamshell deli containers, mirrors
and light bulbs.
The city will be sending
households a flier explaining all this in the coming weeks. Don't recycle
What will it take to get
people to toe the line on recycling? Corporal punishment, or the threat
thereof, was cited by several subjects. Ms. Owens in the Bronx said she
recycled assiduously because her husband hits her in the head if she
In Park Slope, Brooklyn, Joe
Taverney, 28, recalled that not long ago, "I put out some glass, but my
landlord threatened me and then I remembered."
Philip Ameduri, a landlord of
two buildings in Carroll Gardens, said his tenants seldom slipped up. "If I
see something wrong, I tell them how to do it," Mr. Ameduri said. "It's my
way or the highway."
Mr. Ameduri, retired from a
job on Wall Street, had no patience with recycling know-nothings. "If you
look at the pictures on the sign, it's not hard," he said, adding that his
motto, "When in doubt, recycle it," had never steered him wrong.
Then there are parts of the
city where the latest developments in the recycling policy are likely to be
just as widely ignored as previous ones.
"I don't do it," said Anna
Anglero, 44, who lives in the Red Hook West city housing complex in
Brooklyn. "We have the incinerators right there so I just throw everything
Some New Yorkers rejoiced to
hear of recycling's return.
"That's excellent," said
William Imboden, 42, a television producer in Park Slope. "We've been up to
our eyeballs in recycling, and when the snows came they missed us and we had
stuff all over the stoop."
"And it smells," chimed in his
wife, Fiona Imboden, 38. "It costs money, but it seems like a cost worth
paying," Mr. Imboden said. "We have to be environmentally conscious," Ms.
But even some steadfast
recycling supporters harbored doubts. "How long is this going to last, six
months?" asked Greg Grogan, the superintendent of an apartment building on
Grand Concourse in the Bronx. "He should make a law and stick with it."
Ann Farmer and Howard O. Stier
contributed reporting for this article.
Copyright 2004 The New York