Although many West Coast cities are known for their comprehensive environmental initiatives, recycling programs in the Northeast deserve equal attention. From the bustling metropolises of New York City and Boston and Montpelier, VT, and Augusta, ME, cities of all sizes across the Northeast are implementing some of the nation’s most comprehensive recycling programs. Let’s start with New York City, the largest metropolitan area in our nation with approximately 19.1 million residents. With this many people, recycling is a must. The city sanitation department allows consumers to recycle paper and cardboard, beverage cartons, glass bottles, cans, metal, foil and even fallen leaves in certain areas of the city. Public areas throughout the city are equipped with recycling collection bins to minimize the amount of trash that is disposed of by visitors and residents when out and about. Each year, the NYC Department of Sanitation collects between 366,000 and 423,000 tons of mixed paper recyclables and between 250,000 and 331,000 tons of bottles, cans, metal, foil and beverage cartons. The NYCWasteLess program also features a composting initiative. City leaders have launched a compost outreach and education program to help New York City residents learn how to compost, what to do with the compost and how composting is beneficial to the environment. If residents decide to use the city’s composting service instead, the finished product is made available to city agencies and nonprofit organizations to help create more green spaces in the city. While not as large as NYC’s program, the recycling program in Boston allows city residents to recycle more than 30 different household items in its regular curbside recycling pick-up. Boston’s recycling program also has several different recycling pick-ups scheduled throughout the year, including Christmas tree recycling during the first two weeks of January, yard waste recycling for six weeks in both the spring and the fall and scheduled hazardous waste pick-ups, including e-waste. On the opposite end of the population spectrum is Montpelier, VT. Montpelier is the smallest state capital in the United States, with a population of just about 8,000 residents. Although the city is small, it has joined forces with 17 other communities to create the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District (CVSWMD). The CVSWMD is working toward a zero-waste goal; in other words, all waste generated by the 18 member communities will be reused or recycled. To help achieve this goal, the district has a variety of educational resources available to both businesses and consumers. Another of the smaller communities in the Northeast is Augusta, ME. The 2009 census shows that Maine’s capital city has fewer than 19,000 residents. Although Maine is one of the least populated states in the nation, it still has a comprehensive recycling program. Maine’s public recycling services reach over 98% of the state’s population, and in 2008, the recycling rate for the state was 38.7%. Maine is working to improve this by expanding its household hazardous waste collection program, closing almost all of the state’s unlicensed landfills, providing recycling outreach and educational programs to its residents, implementing a composting program, continuing its safe medicine disposal program and even allowing its residents to recycle banned and unusable pesticides for free. These four Northeastern communities are shining examples of how recycling programs can be scaled to meet the needs of the city. Whether the programs are helping 19 million people or 8,000 people recycle, residents in these cities have the tools that they need to reuse and recycle their waste.
Northeast Recycling Programs Shine
A brief look at recycling programs in major metropolitan areas and small state capitals in the Northeastern U.S.