NEW YORK – It's a proposal that has environmentalists in the dumps.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to suspend part of a 10-year-old recycling program.
"We have two recycling programs — one that works, and one that does not," Bloomberg said.
The one that does not is for cans and bottles. Currently, it costs $240 per ton to recycle glass, while it costs only $130 to dispose of trash.
If the city stops recycling, it could save $57 million a year, a far cry from the windfall recycling was expected to produce when the program began in 1993.
The cost factor is a realization several other cities are coming to terms with as well.
"People are taking a look at recycling in a lot of places," said J. Winston Porter, president of the Waste Policy Center. "It's not against the law to worry about cost and I think what New York is doing is what others are doing. If it makes sense from an environmental and economic standpoint, do it. If not, don't do it."
Traditionally, scrap metal is the most lucrative material to recycle. Selling old newspapers may lose or make money depending on the market but recycling cans and bottles is a labor intensive process with, as of yet, little payback. But environmentalists still claim it will pay off in the long run.
"It also will help protect the environment by reducing the amount of material we have to bury or burn and it's preserving resources and cutting down on toxic emissions," said Mark Izeman, of the National Resources Defense Council.
Porter disagreed and said, "I don't know that it has a huge environmental benefit. And you know, you just have to look at the cost."
Disposing of the program in New York still has to be approved by the City Council. Still, some see the proposal as an opening salvo in a recycling war, one that could be waged across the country for years.