Earlier this year, the City of New Rochelle prepared a draft sustainability plan, called GreeNR, with the aim of improving the environmental, economic, and social health of New Rochelle over the next 20 years and beyond. The plan contains many practical, achievable action items that the City could choose to pursue. I am hopeful that the City Council will adopt a final version of the plan early next year. In the meantime, there are certainly many ways that we can work towards its goals, step by step.

The County Board of Legislators this month took one of those steps, expanding the list of plastics to be recycled throughout Westchester. The County had already invested in equipment that could easily sort all plastics by their recycling code (the number that appears inside the triangular recycle logo), but was requiring only the most common types (1 and 2) to be picked up. Beginning June 1, 2011 numbers 3 through 7 will be added to the County’s recycling program.

In addition to the environmental benefit of keeping these plastics out of landfill, the County sells these used plastics to manufacturers who repurpose them for new materials. Because the market for recycled plastics is expanding, the County will increase revenues from its existing sorting facility.

The change should also benefit the City fiscally. While disposing of recyclables is free, we are currently charged $25 per ton for the disposal of non-recyclable waste, for a total last year of more than $700,000. Every ton shifted towards the recyclable waste stream helps local taxpayers.

The most common of the recycling codes added to the County program is number 6, which includes the hard plastic in many toys and plastic utensils, as well as insulation and Styrofoam.