What’s Your Thought On Recycling?

I am curious as to what Buffalo Rising readers feel regarding recycling in the region. Over the last few weeks I’ve heard concerns that Buffalo is not doing enough as far as recycling goes. I’ve been wondering if that’s because the individual resident is not doing his or her part, or is it the system? I’ve been hearing horror stories that the majority of office buildings don’t offer recycling. I recently heard from a resident living at a nearby hotel that there was no recycling offered, and complaints went unregistered. The restaurants around town throw away mass quantities of wine bottles. My girlfriend’s mother has no recycling options in her apartment building, and the landlord apparently could care less. Some people are still adamant that they have seen garbage trucks dump recycle bins into their trucks on the West Side. The list goes on and on.

So what’s rumor and what’s the truth? It all depends on whom you talk to actually. Are we on top of our game, or is there an inherent problem within the system? How do we really figure out what’s going right and what’s going wrong? To me it’s completely baffling. I want to think that I’m doing my part by separating my bottles and paper. Is it all for naught, or are people just being paranoid? And do we even think about adding increased recycling measures (wine bottle, Styrofoam, etc) to the list, or do we fix the low hanging fruit first in order to fine tune the process? 

About the author  ⁄ queenseyes

Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Catalyst behind the Pierce-Arrow Film Arts Center. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette. Themed New Years mayhem at various locations. Next up: Porchfest... Also offers package tours of the city for groups or individuals. Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

36 comments
sbrof
sbrof

I have always composed while living in the city, even for the last 5 years as a renter. Most landlords will let you have one, especially since so many people garden... they are more then willing to take some of that compost when ready.

LovinLivinintheBuff
LovinLivinintheBuff

I was told over a year ago that a green bin recycling program in the city was "just around the corner". Does ANYONE have any information on this? I am trying to compost, but it used to be a lot easier to do when I was a kid on 3 acres in Elma...

whatever
whatever

Nice ad hominem personal attack, Charlie.

Usually I don't get personal here, but since you felt free to make bizarre off-topic guesses about me, I'll return the favor this time.

Let me guess, you're not open minded and tolerant of opinion diversity enough to see alternative points of view presented without launching rude nonsense "guesses" about people who don't march in lock step with your P.C. opinions?

Great attitude!

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

whatever, let me guess, you watch Fox News and voted for Bush twice? What a crock to present those "findings", yes recycling takes effort, the true way to be better is to reduce consumption overall, but since a massive lifestyle change will take drastic efforts, at least recycling brings back a portion of what we use into the system rather than starting over again with more natural resources.

Scottwf, As for banning plastic bottles, 100% agree. I actually started a petition to ban plastic bags in the city, progressive cities like San Francisco and Portland have already done this. Sign it here:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/banbags/petition.html

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

whatever, let me guess, you watch Fox News and voted for Bush twice? What a crock to present those "findings", yes recycling takes effort, the true way to be better is to reduce consumption overall, but since a massive lifestyle change will take drastic efforts, at least recycling brings back a portion of what we use into the system rather than starting over again with more natural resources.

Scottwf, As for banning plastic bottles, 100% agree. I actually started a petition to ban plastic bags in the city, progressive cities like San Francisco and Portland have already done this. Sign it here:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/banbags/petition.html

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

whatever, let me guess, you watch Fox News and voted for Bush twice? What a crock to present those "findings", yes recycling takes effort, the true way to be better is to reduce consumption overall, but since a massive lifestyle change will take drastic efforts, at least recycling brings back a portion of what we use into the system rather than starting over again with more natural resources.

Scottwf, As for banning plastic bottles, 100% agree. I actually started a petition to ban plastic bags in the city, progressive cities like San Francisco and Portland have already done this. Sign it here:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/banbags/petition.html

whatever
whatever

A different way to look at it -

"... Recycling, however, is not always economically efficient or even environmentally helpful. The popular emphasis on recycling stems partly from misconceptions. One misconception is that landfills and incinerators are environmentally risky. ...Another misconception is that we are running out of landfill space. ...

...Ironically, recycling does not eliminate environmental worries. Recycling is a manufacturing process and, like other manufacturing processes, can produce pollution. An EPA study of toxic chemicals found such chemicals in both recycling and virgin paper processing, and for most of the toxins studied, the recycling process had higher levels than the virgin manufacturing did. Nor will recycling more newspapers necessarily preserve trees, because many trees are grown specifically to be made into paper.

A study prepared for the environmental think tank Resources for the Future estimated that if paper recycling reached high levels, demand for virgin paper would fall. As a result, writes economist A. Clark Wiseman, “some lands now being used to grow trees will be put to other uses.” The impact would not be large, but it would be the opposite of what most people expect—there would be fewer trees, not more.

Finally, curbside recycling programs require additional trucks, which use more energy and create more pollution. ..."

Whole thing here:

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Recycling.html

O'Brien
O'Brien

I think Buffalo does a fair job of recycling, but all involved could do more. I lived in New Hampshire for a couple months in 2007, and all residents had to take their trash to the local transfer station. Items were separated and weighed by the resident, and they were only charged for items that could not be reused.

That is one extreme. There is a sweet spot somewhere beyond what we are doing and where it gets extreme and inconvenient for residents. Let's start with recycling at all public events and locations, make it more palatable for residents and businesses to recycle. With all the federal stimulus money being tossed around, I am sure that Buffalo could take the lead on creating innovative programs. If we do a great job at it, then we might even make another Forbes list for most environmentally friendly cities.

Jeff Wilber
Jeff Wilber

L.A. has a lot of drawbacks, but their recycling program isn't one of them. Each home or residence is issued three bins - one green, one black, one blue. The green is for lawn and garden cuttings, etc. The black is for garbage. And the blue is for recyclables. Now the definition of what is 'recyclable' is quite broad - all plastic, glass, cans, etc. can be thrown into the bin. Ultimately, they are manually separated at the dump site, then shipped off. As for those items with a 'redemption' value, a whole other business has grown around that. Anything you buy out here in a bottle or can, save milk and juice, is charged a redemption value. An abundance of 'bottle and can' people go from bin to bin on garbage night, pulling the redeemable's out and taking them to a redemption center where they are paid the value. And, again, the redemption center ships the materials out to be recycled.

It's not a great system, but it is a system that does get the materials where they need to be. As for office buildings and apartment buildings, many, and I mean MANY, choose to participate in their own recycling programs. And the effect of ALL of the above can be seen. There really is less crap on the streets over the years. That is a good thing.

sbrof
sbrof

The style usually depicts the number \ type of plastic that it is made out of. The wide mouth plastics are typically (not always) a softer plastic.

LouisTully
LouisTully

you should buy her a Nalgene bottle, or a camelbak. I drink the hell out of those things.

plastic water bottles are ridiculous. perhaps the worst use of 97 cents a person can make. I'd say 99.8% of water consumed by US and allies in Iraq and Afghanistan comes from bottled water. seriously, it's insane. and where does the empty bottle go? get's burned into giant melted masses of plastic somewhere in the corner of the base, surely to someday end up in the water supply.

MRTORONTO
MRTORONTO

The Trucks and The Waste are two entirely different issues and should be dealt with as such.

In Toronto we have Paper and Recycling in one Blue Bin, and garbage in a Black Bin. They are available in three sizes, depending on the households needs and storage options. The garbage is picked up every second week as is the recycling. In addition we have a Green bin for Organic Waste picked up every week.

Picture this every week you take out the Green Bin and the Recycling OR Garbage. Pretty simple... I think the plan is to charge households according to the size of bins they use. this motivates households to reduce their wast... Green bins take everything including plastic bags (used as liners) Diapers, and dog poop... Its a great program and very successful.

Evan
Evan

Does anyone know what the reasoning is as to why the city does not allow bottles with tops larger than bottoms to be recycled?

sbrof
sbrof

I think the city actually does a lot to give people the opportunity to recycle. A lot of the nay-sayers are rooted in the fight when the garbage union was fighting against recycling because they felt it would take away union jobs... Way to go you progressive unions. That was when the garbage folks used to throw out the recyclables into the garbage cans etc. It has been years since I saw such behavior and you always see recycling trucks moving along with the garbage trucks.

I also agree that a way that could be monitored that would some sort of monetary compensation would be great. I dont think it is feasible to do that on a house by house level. Perhaps a neighborhood, council district or city-wide. The KEY here is to let people know that the city saved X dollars... therefore your taxes are down X dollars. That would be incentive to recycle more and more and more to see how low you could get your taxes down.

But the information and availability online of what can and cannot be recycled is great. My biggest issue comes to what is and isn't recyclable. UB recycles all numbers 1-6... while the city only does numbers 1s and 2s I think. Why not more?

Scottwf
Scottwf

Can we ban plastic water bottles from WNY? The chick next to me goes through about 4 per day. Piss's me off. We spend so much to purify our tap water.....and the plastic bottles are such a waste.

Also, littering to me is a disgusting habit. Can we chop of the hands of anybody that litters?

And furthermore....two cars in as many days drove by me and dropped trash out of there windows!! The thing is...both cars had North Carolina plates on. If you move to NC, you can't come back.

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

The city does an awful job recycling, they have one person to over see everything, and he is a county employee. I have sent the Mayor's office ideas, only to fall on deaf ears. Until individual residents are incentivized to recycle, you will get the typical bell curve, 10% who go way above the norm, 10% who are downright opposed to any effort, and the rest lying in the middle with various degrees of indifference. There really is not a huge extra effort necessary to be conscious, but we are a lazy society in general, and that goes for the entire US.

In regards to events going green, some claim they are trying to, but it all comes down to cost. We made the Buffalo Scavenger Hunt not allow vehicles, partly for insurance, but mostly to avoid the added pollution it causes. We recommend public transportation in any, and we ask all participants to recycle anything they use that day.

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

The city does an awful job recycling, they have one person to over see everything, and he is a county employee. I have sent the Mayor's office ideas, only to fall on deaf ears. Until individual residents are incentivized to recycle, you will get the typical bell curve, 10% who go way above the norm, 10% who are downright opposed to any effort, and the rest lying in the middle with various degrees of indifference. There really is not a huge extra effort necessary to be conscious, but we are a lazy society in general, and that goes for the entire US.

In regards to events going green, some claim they are trying to, but it all comes down to cost. We made the Buffalo Scavenger Hunt not allow vehicles, partly for insurance, but mostly to avoid the added pollution it causes. We recommend public transportation in any, and we ask all participants to recycle anything they use that day.

Charlie Riley
Charlie Riley

The city does an awful job recycling, they have one person to over see everything, and he is a county employee. I have sent the Mayor's office ideas, only to fall on deaf ears. Until individual residents are incentivized to recycle, you will get the typical bell curve, 10% who go way above the norm, 10% who are downright opposed to any effort, and the rest lying in the middle with various degrees of indifference. There really is not a huge extra effort necessary to be conscious, but we are a lazy society in general, and that goes for the entire US.

In regards to events going green, some claim they are trying to, but it all comes down to cost. We made the Buffalo Scavenger Hunt not allow vehicles, partly for insurance, but mostly to avoid the added pollution it causes. We recommend public transportation in any, and we ask all participants to recycle anything they use that day.

tired
tired

Seems to me I witnessed recycling at the Elmwood Art Festival last year.

tired
tired

You got it, through and through!

tired
tired

Who told you that? Marvelous Mickey?

tired
tired

Who told you that? Marvelous Mickey?

Evan
Evan

One thing that would at the very least be nice to see is if festivals started using recyclable materials around Buffalo.

Taste of Buffalo is a great example where almost 100% of the supplies are not recyclable.

Many other towns are turning to even using materials that can be composted.

At the very least, if not changing the materials used, we could at least provide recycling bins at events in the first place...

downtownjunkie
downtownjunkie

At my cottage in Crystal beach (Fort Erie) they have separate bins for plastic, cans, paper and organic (Biomass). You are allowed two cans of whatever is left, your basic non recyclable trash and anything more than two cans of trash a week you need to go to the local convenience store and purchase garbage tickets at an added cost. Recycling pays off for the average homeowner and taxpayer in other words. I see no reason why this could not work here in Buffalo-Niagara

LouisTully
LouisTully

It's not a Buffalo problem though, it's an American problem. Buffalo sure does alot more than Louisville does, I can tell you that. And more than what they did when I lived in NC. Bottle deposits are an inconvenience but it's a great way to get people to actually recycle. They should put deposits on cigarette butts, then maybe I won't get an eyeful at the beach, the park, favorite restaurant, sidewalk, ballpark... basically everywhere.

benfranklin
benfranklin

Slap a barcode on the blue bin and the blue tote. The truck lifts the bin, so it could be weighed, scanned, and automatically recored. Weigh the recycleables. Come up with some percentage that should be recycled, over that, you get a discount on your garbage fee... over, pay the top rate. Some formula could be developed. As soon as people had to pay for what their throwing out (by the pound), the people would adjust their behavior (or use their neighbors bin). Until then, recycling is wishful thinking. The goal should be reducing overall waste going to the landfill, which a metered approach would give.

Lorem Ipsum
Lorem Ipsum

The proper incentives will produce more of the desired behavior. Look at how the bottle law works and do more of the same.

Lorem Ipsum
Lorem Ipsum

The proper incentives will produce more of the desired behavior. Look at how the bottle law works and do more of the same.

sobuff
sobuff

I suppose my comment was totally seperate from the question of how to increase the amount of recycling that takes place. It's more just an observation, I guess. I'm just curious what the environmental cost is to go through the recycling process...giant trucks taking recycling away to help the environment seems like an oxymoron to me.

kanlam
kanlam

I wish there was a drop-off location for recyclables in addition to the curbside program. I'd much rather store up a couple of weeks' worth and drop them off than deal with the bins.

tommystanford
tommystanford

one rumor i've heard is that the city isn't recycling 80% or more of its collection anyway, and that its all being dumped into South Buffalo warehouses...

tommystanford
tommystanford

one rumor i've heard is that the city isn't recycling 80% or more of its collection anyway, and that its all being dumped into South Buffalo warehouses...

tired
tired

@sobuff

So,we buy new trucks that are environmentally sweet to pick up more of nothing. No sense there.

tired
tired

The city and county can do so much. It is now up to individuals and businesses.

sobuff
sobuff

I wonder if the city could get more environmentally-friendly trucks (or some other way to) pick up recycling around the city. It seems that our efforts to do some good for the environment gets trampled on by these smog breathing, diesel chugging giants.

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