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For Release: Friday, September 1, 2017

DEC Announces 25th Anniversary of New York's Recycling Laws

New York's Policies and Programs Have Removed 320 Million Tons of Recyclables from Waste Stream, Reduced Emissions by 1 Billion Metric Tons

Efforts Highlight Cuomo Legacy of Environmental Stewardship

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that September 1, 2017, marks the 25th anniversary of New York's statewide adoption of local recycling laws. Since 1992, local source-separation programs have captured and diverted more than 320 million tons of recyclable materials from disposal resulting in an estimated net emission reduction of 1 billion metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking 211 million cars off the road for one year.

"Twenty five years of reducing, reusing, and recycling New York's waste have proven the power of conservation in our fight to protect our natural resources for future generations. Our recycling programs are putting thousands of New Yorkers to work in the state's booming green economy while cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and preventing pollution from harming our air, waters and lands," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Like his father before him, Governor Cuomo is committed to carrying on the progressive policies that have made New York State the birthplace of some of the world's most effective recycling programs and facilities."

The New York State Solid Waste Management Act of 1988, signed into law by Governor Mario M. Cuomo, required municipalities to adopt local laws or ordinances requiring the separation and segregation of recyclable or reusable materials from solid waste by no later than September 1, 1992.

In addition, since its inception in 1994, New York's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has invested more than $155 million in funding to municipalities to support recycling infrastructure, recycling coordinators, and household hazardous waste management programs. Under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's leadership, the state has increased the EPF to $300 million and partnered with local governments, business, and environmental organizations to maintain, expand, and promote waste reduction, reuse, recycling, organics diversion and product stewardship programs that encourage more sustainable practices and conserve our natural resources.

At the Governor's direction, State agencies have also achieved significant waste reduction, recycling, and organics diversion efforts through state procurement and sustainability efforts. Agencies have reduced the amount of solid waste generated by more than half (51 percent) over the past seven years and agencies currently report recycling rates of 70 percent.

Each year, the New York State Returnable Container Act, or "Bottle Bill," recycles more than 4.5 billion plastic, glass and aluminum beverage containers, totaling over 300,000 tons of recyclables, and eliminating approximately 200,000 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking 9,000 garbage trucks off the road for one year.

Additionally, DEC is strengthening the state's solid waste regulations (Part 360). New York has adopted product stewardship laws using an extended producer responsibility model that require the take-back and reuse or recycling of electronic waste, rechargeable batteries, and mercury-containing thermostats.

Innovative initiatives the state has implemented to further reduce waste include:

  • Organics management program with organics recycling facilities to reduce and divert food waste from the waste stream and reduce emissions.
  • New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act of 2010,‎ a comprehensive electronic waste (e-waste) law that requires manufacturers who sell or offer for sale covered electronic equipment such as computers, computer peripherals, televisions, small scale servers, and small electronic equipment, to establish a convenient acceptance program for the collection, handling, and recycling or reuse of e-waste free of charge to most consumers. Since its implementation, more than 520 million pounds of electronic waste from New York consumers has been recycled or reused instead of being sent to landfills, waste combustion facilities, or other improper disposal methods.
  • New York State Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act, requires manufacturers of covered rechargeable batteries to collect and recycle the batteries in a manufacturer-funded program at no cost to consumers. Consumers across the state have safely returned more than one million rechargeable batteries from 2013 - 2016.
  • The New York State Mercury Thermostat Collection Act,‎ requires thermostat manufacturers to establish and maintain a program for the collection, transportation, recycling, and proper management of out-of-service mercury thermostats at no cost to New York State or consumers participating in the program. A total of 21,099 thermostats were collected from New York State consumers on behalf of manufacturers during calendar years 2013 through 2016.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of New York's groundbreaking recycling programs, Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation.

Senator Tom O'Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "It's a landmark anniversary commemorating an initiative and an action that has made a fundamental difference for the short- and long-term quality of environmental protection in New York State."

Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation said, "Recycling is one of the easiest and most effective ways we can create more sustainable communities. It is thrilling to celebrate that our local municipalities across the state have been recycling for 25 years. Over time it has become an engrained behavior and by continuing to keep plastic, glass, and other recyclables out of the waste stream, we are pushing ever toward New York's overall emissions goals. I am proud to say that New York has been a leader in this field and I applaud all of our local governments for carrying out these valuable programs."

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said, "Twenty-five years ago, Monroe County created the public education campaign "Don't Trash Our Future. Recycle.", which is still widely used across the County to educate our residents on the benefits of recycling. We continue to prioritize recycling education in our community and look forward to many years of sustained growth in our recycling outcomes. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and New York State for their leadership in this important issue."

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said, "The City of Buffalo has embraced mandatory recycling from the beginning. My administration remains committed and has strategically added to the City's recycling programming to divert waste from the landfill."

Commissioner Kathryn Garcia of the New York City Department of Sanitation said, "The City of New York is proud to be a leader in municipal recycling, beginning with the City's landmark 1989 mandatory recycling law. Today, New York City residents recycle nearly 2,000 tons of paper, metal, glass, and plastic per day, and curbside recycling is a key part of reaching our goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. We are thrilled to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the New York State Recycling Law and to support ongoing investment and innovation in recycling in New York."
Kelli Timbrook, President of NYSAR3 said, "New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling commends Governor Cuomo for his reaffirmation of the New York Recycling Law. This law has led the way for responsible materials management during its first 25 years and will continue to make New York a greener, more environmentally friendly place for everyone in the years to come!"

Meg Morris, Chair, Federation of NY Solid Waste Associations, said, "Recycling in New York has improved dramatically over these first 25 years through collaboration at all levels of the public and private sectors. From the residents who willingly prepare their recycling, the local and state governments who enact, encourage and enforce regulations, to the haulers who transport the materials, to the solid waste and recycling professionals, to the variety of businesses who utilize the recyclables for new products; everyone in New York plays a valuable role and are to be congratulated on this milestone."

Cindy G. Livingston, Interim Director, Fulton County Department of Solid Waste, said, "Thank you for the opportunity to highlight some of Fulton County's accomplishments over the past 25 years since the implementation of the state's local recycling law. We are really proud of what we do here, and how much our programs and services have grown through the years. We look forward to a future with even more successes with our recycling and materials management goals."

Dan Lilkas-Rain, Recycling Coordinator, Town of Bethlehem, said, "The Town of Bethlehem joins the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Governor Andrew Cuomo's office in celebrating the 25th Anniversary of New York State's Recycling Law! Thanks in part to the State's Recycling Law and leadership, the Town of Bethlehem in Albany County, New York is proud to have achieved an estimated 65% recycling/waste diversion rate as of 2016, helping keep tens of millions of pounds of valuable materials out of the landfill over the years. We are honored to have been recognized for our recycling and composting efforts as early as 2003 with the Governor's Waste Reduction and Recycling Award for achieving a 50% recycling rate, and more recently, the Town of Bethlehem had the privilege of sharing in the recognition along with the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3) and the Re-Clothe NY Coalition for our joint textile recovery efforts with a US EPA Environmental Champion Award, and New York State Senate Legislative Resolution in 2015."

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