New York City

De Blasio unveils sweeping environmental plan on Earth Day

April 22, 2015 By Jonathan Lemire Associated Press
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio holds up a reusable water bottle as an example of a change he made for the environment during a news conference in the Bronx on Wednesday. New York City, in a far-reaching effort to limit its impact on the environment, marked Earth Day on Wednesday by announcing a plan to reduce its waste output by 90 percent by 2030. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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The nation’s biggest city, in a far-reaching effort to limit its impact on the environment, marked Earth Day on Wednesday by announcing a plan to reduce its waste output by 90 percent by 2030.

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his sweeping OneNYC plan, which includes an overhaul of the city’s recycling program, incentives to reduce waste and tacit support for the City Council’s plan to dramatically reduce the use of plastic shopping bags.

New York, with about 8.5 million residents, would be the largest city in the Western Hemisphere to adopt such a plan, which aims to reduce the amount of its waste by more than 3 million tons from its 2005 level of about 3.6 million tons.

“The average New Yorker throws out nearly 15 pounds of waste a week, adding up to millions upon millions of tons a year,” de Blasio said in a statement. “To be a truly sustainable city, we need to tackle this challenge head on.”

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The waste reduction plan is part of an update to the sustainability project created by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. De Blasio is rebranding it OneNYC and widening its scope, linking it to the signature cause of his administration: combating income inequality.

The mayor pledges to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty in the next decade, one of the largest anti-poverty efforts in the nation’s history, and wants to end racial and ethnic disparities in premature mortality.

De Blasio also reiterated his lofty housing goals — he aims to create 500,000 units of affordable housing by 2040 — as well as new capital expenditure pledges to cut down on commuter times and improve the city’s aging infrastructure.

For decades, the city’s trash has been exported by rail or barge to South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or upstate New York. The new plan would eliminate almost all the garbage exports, which cost more than $350 million annually.

The amount of waste produced by the city has fallen 14 percent since 2005 because of an increase in recycling, and a key component of the plan is to bolster that output by simplifying the process.

Currently, residential buildings have two types of recycling bins. The city’s new single-stream plan, already used by other cities, would consolidate all recycling into one bin by 2020.

Organics — such as food scraps and yard waste — make up 31 percent of the city’s residential waste stream. A program to collect that material directly from residents’ homes is expanding to nearly 200,000 residents by year’s end, and city officials want to serve every home by the end of 2018. The city also will offer economic incentives to participate, including potentially a property tax rebate for homeowners.

The city also aims to reduce commercial waste by 90 percent by 2030 by adopting a program similar to what’s used in residential buildings. That could also mean tax incentives for participating businesses and fines for ones that don’t.

The de Blasio administration stopped short of endorsing a City Council bill that proposes a 10-cent fee on plastic bags, but officials said that reducing their use is a priority and that they would coordinate efforts with the council.

A spokeswoman for de Blasio said some of the funding for the program would be revealed in next month’s budget proposal.

The Zero Waste portion is meant to build on de Blasio’s environmental record, which includes a ban on Styrofoam boxes and the goal to reduce carbon emissions from city buildings by 80 percent by 2050.

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