Volume 78 - Number 46 / April 22 -28, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photo by Isaac Rosenthal

Bottle and can collectors will be able to get deposits on plastic water bottles starting June 1.

Government is starting to get with green program

By Matt Townsend

As New Yorkers have become more concerned about global warming, pollution and sustainability, their elected officials have started to get the message.

The city and state have recently adopted several policies that encourage recycling and carbon emission reduction.

In the recently passed state budget, a revamped Returnable Container Act, also known as the bottle deposit law, was passed to include bottled water and for 80 percent of uncollected deposits — an increase from zero percent under the old law — to go back to the state’s general fund.

“It’s going to reduce litter and increase recycling,” said Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, which worked on the law’s passage for the past seven years.

The initial bottle deposit law passed in 1982 mandated a 5-cent deposit on soda and beer containers, and led to more than 90 billion bottles and cans being redeemed and then recycled to keep more than 6 million tons of glass, plastic and metal out of the state’s landfills and incinerators. The addition of bottled water will encourage more recycling of the 3 billion water containers sold in the state each year, according to Haight.

NYPIRG estimates that the 80 percent of uncollected deposits that will now go to state could generate as much as $115 million per year. Since the law’s inception, the beverage industry has kept more than $2 billion in uncollected deposits. Adding revenue to the state coffers at a time of massive budget gaps made passage of the law easier.

“The state’s deficit was significant, they really needed this money,” Haight said.

Under the law, any store that sells a container with a deposit has to redeem it. Many large food stores, such as the Key Food on Avenue A and the Whole Foods Market on East Houston St., have machines that accept containers for recycling. The expanded bill will go into effect on June 1.

Go Green LES

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer launched Go Green two years ago to promote health and sustainability. His office launched Go Green LES last year, joining initiatives in East Harlem and Washington Heights, in coordination with residents and nonprofit organizations. So far, the coalition has helped create a cooking-oil recycling program (biodiesel), promoted greenmarkets and held a street fair last year with local food and green education.

Houston St. reconstruction

Lower East Side and East Village residents will see a direct effect from the federal government’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus package, when the revamping of Houston St. between Second Ave. and the F.D.R. Drive begins later this year.

A traffic lane will be removed on both sides of the street so sidewalks can be widened and bike lanes created. The city announced the $23.5 million project on March 30 as part of $261 million in transportation funding coming from the stimulus. Features will include two public plazas along Houston St. to coincide with the city’s PlaNYC’s open-space initiative. The project’s estimated completion date is fall 2011.

More green taxis

The Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a measure in March to incentivize taxi fleet owners to buy more hybrid vehicles. Fleet owners can now charge a driver more to lease a hybrid than a non-hybrid, which the city believes will encourage them to replace their cabs with hybrids. The drivers will pay more to lease a taxi, but will save money on gas by driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

The incentives are part of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s plan to turn the city’s taxi fleet into hybrid vehicles as part PlaNYC’s goal to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Since the hybrid initiative was launched in 2007, more than 1,500 of the city’s 13,000 taxis have become fuel-efficient.


The city passed an anti-idling law in February that reduces the amount of time from three minutes to one minute that a vehicle can idle in front of a public or private school building, in an effort to combat childhood asthma and cut carbon emissions. The law also expands enforcement of the law to the Parks and Sanitation departments.

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