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NYC aims to cut waste by 90 percent by 2030

New York City is set to mark Earth Day by announcing the ambitious goal of reducing its waste output by 90 percent by 2030.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday will announce The Zero Waste 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.

Its goal is sweeping: New York would be the largest city in the Western Hemisphere to adopt the plan, which aims to reduce the amount of its waste by about 3 million tons from its 2005 level of 3.6 million tons.

The waste reduction plan is part of an update to the sustainability project named PlaNYC, created during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration to provide a framework for mitigating the impacts of population growth and a changing climate on the city's infrastructure. De Blasio is rebranding it OneNYC.

"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."

For decades, city trash has been exported by rail or barge and sent to facilities in South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or upstate New York. The new plan would eliminate almost all of the garbage exports, which currently cost more than $350 million a year.

The amount of waste produced by the city has fallen 14 percent since 2005 due to an increase in recycling, and a key component of the Zero Waste 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 would consolidate all of the recycling into one type of bin by 2020.

Organics -- food scraps, yard waste and other things that cannot be recycled -- make up 31 percent of the city's residential waste stream. A program to collect that material directly from residents' homes is being expanded to nearly 200,000 residents by year's end, and officials want to serve every home in the city by the end of 2018. The city, which has about 8.5 million residents, 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 is being used with residential buildings. That could also mean tax incentives for businesses that participate and fines for those who don't.

And while the de Blasio administration stopped short of endorsing a City Council bill that proposes a 10-cent fee for use of plastic bags, 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 Zero Waste program would be revealed in next month's budget proposal but noted there would also be cost savings due to the dramatic reduction of garbage being shipped out of state.

Some environmental groups briefed on the plan yesterday applauded its wide-ranging scope.


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