Merchants hail new recycling program a success

By MIAWLING LAM

Locals have embraced the expansion of a popular city-run recycling program.

North Riverdale Merchants Association president Gary Wartels said residents and businesses have responded enthusiastically to the Public Space Recycling initiative.

Under the program, run by the city’s Department of Sanitation, cerulean blue and emerald green baskets are placed in strategic locations across the five boroughs to encourage people to recycle.

Two blue-and-green sets of cans were placed—one set at Skyview Shopping Plaza, located on Riverdale Avenue and West 259th Street, and one set at Riverdale Neighborhood House on Mosholu Avenue, on Friday, February 17. The cans have been filling up quickly.

“People are really using it. Actually, a lot more than I thought,” Wartels said, adding that he has already emptied out the newspaper and glass and aluminum cans on three occasions.

“Right now, I’m putting in a new bag every week.”

Wartels said he was inspired to bring the recycling program to Riverdale after seeing hundreds of the colorful receptacles in Manhattan.

Of the 680 cans littered across the city, only 74 are in The Bronx and until three weeks ago, just six were stationed in Riverdale—all of which were in Van Cortlandt Park.

Businesses, nonprofits and local groups adopt the bins on a voluntary basis, empty them whenever they’re full, and hold the bags in a safe location until DSNY workers can pick them up.

The receptacles and liners are provided to participating partners at no cost, and the bags are even collected for free at a time of a business or organization’s choosing.

According to DSNY officials, the receptacles have a 90 percent purity rate, which means that garbage is rarely thrown into the bins.

However, if the bag looks like it’s mostly full of garbage, workers treat it like rubbish, so merchants can avoid having to sort through the bag to remove trash.

Wartels said concerns about cross-contamination and people placing garbage in the receptacles haven’t materialized yet. But several people have been raiding the blue baskets for deposit bottles and cans that yield cash when returned to a vendor.

“They go in and take all the cans out,” he said. “But I don’t see that as a negative because they’re taking it, recycling it and making money off it, so it’s accomplishing the goal.”

The city imposes certain requirements about where the recycling baskets can be placed and their proximity to sidewalks and bus stops.

The North Riverdale Merchants Association is currently looking for more businesses and organizations to manage other basket locations.

Anyone interested in becoming a program partner is encouraged to attend the North Riverdale Merchants Association’s next meeting on Tuesday, March 20, at the Riverdale Neighborhood House.

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