Vasishta: Talkin' trash -- please don't dump on me

Recycling in New York City

Recycling in New York City (Credit: Recycling in New York City. (Getty Images))

In a recent episode of HBO's "Girls," Hannah decided to put Cafe Grumpy's trash into a neighboring brownstone's bin, much to the chagrin of its owner. I know how he felt -- the same thing happened to me.

Well, OK, there was no coffee shop and no apologetic employee willing to jump into my bed. Just someone else's mixed-up garbage in front of my brownstone -- and a ticket from the sanitation department.

I may have been born in England, but I've been a Brooklynite long enough to be intimately familiar with the recycling rules. Mayor Michael Bloomberg just expanded them to include all rigid plastics, including toys, hangers, food containers and shampoo bottles. The new rules will, according to the mayor, save the city almost $600,000 in export costs a year.

The good news for me is that residents have until July before the city starts enforcing the new rules with fines.

When I was wrongfully accused, I felt a righteous desire to fight. That would entail going to a hearing or writing a letter, however. I had serious doubts about my chances with the last option, having once complained about a parking ticket by mail to no avail. And as a self-employed father of two, my time is more precious than a fine when compared with lost earnings or time spent with my family. I paid the $25.

In the United Kingdom, the government supplies recycling bins that align with its garbage trucks and are emptied automatically. The public supplies its own bins for garbage, making it harder to confuse the two. But in New York, if someone dumps unsorted refuse in front of your house, what can you do? If you don't catch them in the act, must you wait around to inspect your sidewalk just before the garbage trucks arrive?

Maybe the sanitation department knows this. A Google search reveals that being cited for other people's garbage sins is a common source of frustration for New Yorkers.

In recent years, I've received fines for neighborhood construction workers' debris and for passersby dropping their soda cans and beer bottles onto my trash. With the new recycling laws, more erroneous fines doubtless lie ahead.

It's probably time to put my principles before my paycheck.

Jeff Vasishta lives in Crown Heights.


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