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After it was announced this week that New York City would make a "first major changes to the city’s recycling laws since 1989" and "require the Department of Sanitation to recycle all rigid plastic containers," I know I played a small part.

I'd like to think that waiting my turn at public hearings and constant letters to elected officials had something to do with keeping "more than 8,000 tons of plastic out of landfills annually." I wish my low impact diaries here played a part but I'm pretty sure that my graffiti had some serious impact.

For about a year whenever I found myself in the privacy of a public men's room stall, I just scribbled some message on the wall.  I also think that so many New Yorkers assuming that the city accepted all sorts of plastic played a role in the new legislature but a few saw my message.

Protest NYC's limited plastic recycle program. Place all plastic in the Blue Bag!

I wrote other messages. Too many to remember but here are a few more.

New York City is a take-out food town. How many less tons of plastic landfill would there be if the government recycled plastic take-out containers? You should ask Michael Bloomberg.

Sometimes very simple but informative.

All those deli containers you bring home are recyclable in most cities but not New York. Ask Bloomberg why?

Sometimes complicated.

Our "Green Mayor" doesn't like recycle. NYC started the recycle program but Bloomberg has driven us to the bottom. When Giuliani left 20% of residential garbage was recycled. Now it is 16%! Demand the expansion of plastic recycle in NYC.

Scribbling on walls is probably one of the oldest forms of protest. Seems a bit dated but nothing else seemed to be working in this modern age. Following the national news and watching all the progress in recycle programs elsewhere has been very frustrating for this New Yorker. Writing letters that don't even generate a form letter reply was a dead end so I tried some writing where I knew I had a captive audience.  

In case you don't know, until this legislation becomes law, New York City has enjoyed a reputation as a green city even though the recycle program has always been very restricted and has never been improved. On the top of non-recyclables list is almost all plastics.


  • plastic items other than plastic bottles jugs (such as deli and yogurt containers; plastic toys, cups, wrap, etc. — if it's not a bottle or jug, DON'T put it the recycling bin, place in trash)
  • This part of the NYC recycle program info page will be changing soon.

    In other municipal recycling programs in the U.S., such as San Francisco, residents are encouraged to recycle all plastics in order to maximize the recycling rate of HDPE and PET. If residents do not have to think about which plastic to recycle or to discard, the thinking goes, they will recycle more overall.  In such programs, non-HDPE and non-PET resins are usually sorted out and discarded at the recycling plant. In New York City, high labor and transportation costs suggest that such an approach is not worth the expense and extra citizen effort.

    I wish I could remember more of the messages I wrote in my civil disobedience project. Often I stressed civil disobedience by others. I was thinking that if more New Yorkers  ignored the rules in their building's recycle area and put all rigid plastic in the recycle bins, then the city government would get the message.

    Being a good obedient citizen, I mostly wrote messages that stressed using proper channels. I thought this one had Flair, even though I used both thick and thin Sharpies.

    Just Plastic Bottles!

    The rest of the nation is in the 21th Century

    but NYC has not improved the plastic recycle program

    since the Koch administration

    Ask Bloomberg why?

    Just Plastic Bottles!

    I don't really know how much impact I made and most got erased almost immediately. I know a few New Yorkers that probably never think about garbage saw it and that was rewarding. I could have done more. I had also purchased labels to write messages on and was planning to stick them underneath that "Press Here for Light to Turn Green" buttons that never really work but that project never materialized.

    It was no big deal, just a small effort. Still I'd like to think that I played a small part in the expansion of the New York City recycle program. And I'm glad I did.

    If I sound like I'm bragging then my apologies but I'm going to be feeling pretty good about myself this Earth Day. All NYC environmentalist will be celebrating some progress this Earth Day. I hope you have a happy and productive Earth Day too.

    Note: This is cross-posted at Firefly-Dreaming.

    Originally posted to Eddie C on Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 07:49 PM PDT.

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