Saturday, November 24, 2007

City: Stimulating recycling wouldn't be fair

Once a national model for municipal recycling, New Jersey has been slipping in recent years, as many towns and counties seem to have lost their environmental zeal for encouraging residents to remove cans, bottles and newspaper from their trash.

But a recent decision by city fathers in New Brunswick, the home of Rutgers, the state university, may signal a new low.

University students, heeding the call to get recycling back on track, petitioned City Hall for additional pickups in two university neighborhoods where recycling bins are often overflowing in advance of the city's twice-monthly pickup days. Students say people, who otherwise would recycle, are forced to throw their recyclables into the trash.

Are you ready for the city's response? According to a the Home News Tribune, city spokesman Bill Bray said:

"The city can't provide any special services or provide any special treatment for any given population. If we were going to institute additional recycling pickups it would have to be citywide and there's simply no reason for that."

Oh, really? In other words, if the rest of the town is satisfied with doing less than they can to recycle, then they have, in fact, set the standard for everybody else. And it just wouldn't be fair for the city to deviate from the norm, would it? Providing added pickup days for those recycling show-offs over at the university would be a "special service." Downright undemocratic.

In adhering to the lowest-common-denominator approach, the city's missing a great opportunity to boost its recycling tonnage (and score some great PR headlines) by rewarding those citizens who are willing to do more to recycle.

To be fair, the city notes that it sets no limit on the amount of recyclables it will collect on a pickup day and that those who want to recycle more than what their one-free-bin can hold may purchase additional containers from the Department of Public Works for about $8 each.

One student leader says that's too much of a burden for undergraduates on a fixed budget.

Well, maybe. But its no more than the cost of a few imported ales. So a student idealist could opt for domestic brews for a bit and then celebrate with the purchase of a nice new 20-gallon recycling bin to hold lots of future empties.

Or some forward thinking, private-sector company in the waste management or recycling business might recognize this for the great opportunity it is and come riding to recycling's rescue with free cans for all those who promise to fill them.

What do you think? Let us know by clicking on the 'comment' line below.

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