PlaNYC Initiative #3: Incentivizing Recycling Annotated Bibliography

Michelle Guo
Professor MacBride
IDC 4001H
Annotated Bibliography
Due: April 15, 2013


PlaNYC Initiative #3: Incentivizing Recycling Annotated Bibliography


1.)   Allen, Jeff, Duane Davis, and Mark Soskin. “Using Coupon Incentives in Recycling Aluminum: A Market Approach to Energy Conservation Policy.” working paper., 1993. EBSCOhost.

Summary: Jeff Allen, Duane Davis, and Mark Soskin are three researchers that analyzed the impact coupon incentives have on recycling by offering coupon incentives for those who participated in recycling aluminum.  Their results found that modest coupon incentives had a positive influence on individuals who already recycle, but did not have any impact on nonrecyclers.  The higher the coupon value, the more recyclers were willing to recycle.  They also discovered that income, gender, and occupation are the most prominent demographic variables associated with the recyclers in the study.  Nonprofessional males with low incomes are the most likely individuals to recycle aluminum.  Taking the findings from their study, Allen, Davis, and Soskin also suggest multiple ways to incorporate coupon promotional programs into the development of energy conservation policy; they believe it is important to view coupon incentives as a long-term conservation policy tool, promote coupon campaigns that would enhance the benefits that come from recycling, and offer more coupon incentives to rural areas that do not have mandatory curbside recycling.

Rationale: This study is important because American consumers save around $4 billion through the use of cents-off coupons.  This wide coupon use sparks interest and research like this to create effective coupon incentives for recycling.  At the end of 1988, over two and one-half million tons of aluminum waste was generated, with approximately 31.7% of the waste recovered for reuse.  As a result, aluminum recycling became a target for state and municipal legislation.  This study is vital to PlaNYC’s recycling incentive initiative because it also specifies the income, gender, and occupation of individuals who are most likely to recycle aluminum.  This information is valuable because it not only highlights the demographic that responds highly to recycling incentives, but it also shows that greater efforts need to be made to encourage people of all incomes, occupations, and genders to recycle.  This study can also be applied to other types of conservation efforts and recycling of all types of materials.  By combining recycling legislation and coupon incentives, recycling will become a more prominent part of the economy.


2.)   DSM Environmental, “Analysis of New York City Department of Sanitation Curbside Recycling and Refuse Costs.” Last modified May 2008.

Summary: DSM Environmental Services, Inc., a company that analyzes solid waste management solutions, created a report analyzing New York City’s curbside recycling and refuse costs.  According to the report, after New York City cut the recycling budget in 2002, the nation started to wonder whether or not recycling was actually a cost-effect way to deal with municipal solid waste.  Although two years later, Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council together restored glass and plastic recycling collections for all households and created a long-term contract that involved sorting and reselling recycled materials, the importance of recycling was still questioned by individuals.  As a result, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. asked DSM Environmental to study the economics of recycling in New York City and its allocation of money towards recycling.  DSM Environmental concluded that at the end of 2005, New York City’s costs per ton of curbside collection and disposal of recyclables was almost equal to the costs per ton of subside collection and disposal of non-recycled waste.  The company explained that this was because the recycling collection crews collected fewer tons per shift than waste collection crews.

Rationale: I intend to use this source as a way to emphasize the importance of encouraging a greater recycling rate through coupon incentives.  The New York City Department of Sanitation’s annual budget of $1.35 billion is allocated into three different parts: 1.) Collecting and disposing waste, 2.) Collecting and processing of recyclables, and 3.) Cleaning streets.  If coupon incentives encourage New Yorkers to recycle more frequently, it will decrease the cost of waste collection and disposal and also make collecting and processing recyclables more efficient.  Recycling collection crews would be able to collect more tons per shift, which would decrease curbside recycling costs.  In addition, the money saved can be allocated towards other functions.  The overall cost of processing a ton of recyclables, as opposed to just collecting, is still dramatically less than the cost that New York City pays companies to bury or incinerate the city’s waste.


3.)   Lange, Robert. Department of Sanitation, “Recycling: What Do New Yorkers Think?.” Last modified Fall 1999.

Summary: In this study, the Bureau of Waste Prevention conducted research over five years on its residents’ opinions about recycling.  The individuals who participated in the surveys were randomly selected respondents between the ages of 25 to 64, personally involved in deciding which items to recycle, and resided in a home that was currently recycling. For the study, 500 residents of five boroughs were randomly chosen every year for five years to represent a cross-section of New York City’s population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and income.  The Bureau of Waste Prevention found that one of the most consistent and surprising results from the surveys was that New Yorkers were very enthusiastic about recycling.  When they were questioned about their opinions regarding the New York City recycling program, over 75 percent of residents rated it positively and believed it made New York City cleaner and cut down on pollution.  However, the city residents that were surveyed showed confusion about items that cannot be recycled. 60 percent of residents incorrectly believed that the New York City recycling program permitted them to recycle yogurt containers, takeout containers, Styrofoam items, and plastic bags.

Rationale: I will use this research essay as a way to address the receivers of the recycling incentives.  It is very important for PlaNYC and the Department of Sanitation to know that the general attitude towards recycling is positive.  However, one of the main problems regarding recycling is the knowledge of residents about what is recyclable and what is not.  This may discourage residents from recycling because rather than trying to figure it out, they will just throw everything away.  In addition, while the majority of participants agreed that the New York City recycling program was constantly improving, some admitted that they did not even know that changes had been made. This relates to my research topic because if the general attitude towards recycling is already positive, incentivizing it will improve the attitude even more—the main catch is that the residents must be fully informed about the program in a way that is easy and simple for them to understand while still being effective.


4.)   Gold, Allan. “The Poor Mainly Recycle Poverty.” The Region, Late Ed. edition, sec. 4, December 1990.

Summary: This article talks about the disappointingly low participation of low-income New York City residents of the city’s recycling program in 1990.  Residents in poorer, densely populated neighborhoods in areas such as Harlem or Bedford-Stuyvesant did not seem to actively recycle.  At a community board meeting in Harlem held by the Sanitation Committee, a Harlem resident stated that compared to life and death issues, recycling seemed trivial. City officials wanted to reach its goal of 25% recycling, but did not know how to increase participation in low-income neighborhoods.   In addition, the new recycling program created greater than expected collection costs without much productivity gains in northern Manhattan.  Meanwhile, in the South Bronx, David M. Munchnick, the chief executive officer of a successful recycling buyback center, paid $800,000 to low-income individuals who brought in paper, plastic, glass, metal, and wood in 1982 and then sold it to recycling centers for $5 million.

Rationale: This article is significant because it shows the importance of recycling incentives and the change in attitude about recycling for low-income New Yorkers after recycling incentives were introduced. While at the beginning, the article notes the lack of interest and motivation for low-income New Yorkers to recycle, the end shows that when money incentives are involved, low-income residents are much more willing to recycle.  This shows the effectiveness that recycling incentives bring.  Today, the status of recyclers has changed because mostly low-income individuals in poorer, denser neighborhoods recycle; this is largely due to the coupon and monetary incentives that they receive.  However, this also raises the issue about what type of incentives can be given to middle- and high-income city residents to recycle.  The Department of Sanitation must consider that if grocery coupons and five cents per bottle do not interest these demographics, what will?

5.)   Samantha MacBride, Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2012).

Summary: This book, written by Professor MacBride, encourages and informs readers about how the goal of recycling has become lost in the midst of all of the legislation.  In class, we learned about Manhattan and New York City in its most natural state before the transition to cultural diversity and economic wealth.  Although it is impossible for New York City to return to Manhattan, residents of New York City must realize the goal of recycling is still far from being reached.  Large corporations and manufacturers of solid waste have continued to thrive and dominate the political sphere regarding environmental sustainability by preventing sustainable waste policies from passing.  Rather than the federal government taking responsibility for this, local governments and residents are forced to tackle this problem communally.  Dr. MacBride points out multiple problems and questions that this issue raises—are the current steps that consumers and local governments taking truly the most efficient way to recycle and decrease solid waste?

Rationale: When consumers think about recycling, they automatically assume that the simple act of placing a plastic bottle into a recycling bin will save the world and reaches the goal of recycling.  However, this is far from the truth and shows the lack of knowledge that local residents have about recycling.  This issue is not a moral issue though; it is a social and highly political issue that can only be countered by education, mitigation, and legislation.  This theme is vital to my final research paper because incentives encourage action in an effective, yet sustainable manner.  It also educates local residents about what recycling is now, and how that differs from what it should be and how it can be in the future.  If PlaNYC can successfully implement an effective recycling incentive program, it can revamp the way individuals think about recycling and the types of residents who currently recycle in New York City.

6.)   The City of New York, “PlaNYC: Solid Waste.” Last modified 2007.

Summary: In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg launched PlaNYC, a plan designed to create a greener and more sustainable New York City.  PlaNYC now has 132 initiatives that aim toward improving New York City’s physical infrastructure, environment, quality of life, and economy by 2030.  According to the “Solid Waste” portion of the plan, every year, New York City generates over 14 million tons of waste and recyclables.  Over 2,000 city government and 4,000 private trucks collect the waste and recyclables, which generates over 1.66 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.  There are currently thirteen initiatives in the solid waste plan.  These initiatives focus on minimizing the impacts of New York City’s solid waste while simultaneously reducing the amount of waste that is generated by its residents.  In addition, the plan has another goal to improve the recycling program so that it is accessible and convenient for all New York City residents.

Rationale: I will be focusing on the “Solid Waste” portion of PlaNYC and specifically Initiative Three: Incentivize Recycling.  Although mandatory residential recycling programs were introduced in 1985, New York City residents are still not recycling even half the amount that they could be.  Not only does this create solid waste management problems, but it is also a waste of valuable materials.  I am passionate about this initiative because I strongly support incentivizing recycling.  New York City has started a study on the entire commercial waste system; once it is complete, Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Sanitation will be able to develop a recognition and awards program to incentivize businesses and institutions to recycle and use recycled materials.  For residential waste, PlaNYC aims to implement strategic reward programs to incentivize household recycling, which will have an outstanding impact on the GHG emissions and reduce New York City’s cost of exporting waste.  In addition, Initiative Three intends to improve access for communities to monitor the effects of their recycling online.

7.)   The City of New York, “PlaNYC Progress Report.” Last modified 2012.

Summary: Five years after PlaNYC was introduced, it has already started making progress towards transforming New York City into a cleaner and more efficient city.  In 2011, an ambitious update was added to the solid waste portion of PlaNYC: divert 75% of New York City’s solid waste from landfills by 2030.  In addition, in Mayor Bloomberg’s January 2012 State of the City address, he announced that the city planned on doubling the diversion rate for residential and institutional waste by 2017.  To achieve these goals, the city council started a clothing-recycling program in 2011 with Housing Works, a non-profit organization that aims to fight homelessness and spread awareness about HIV/AIDS.  This is unique because it is partnering up with a branch that is associated with fashion, a market that has the potential to have a large impact on increasing recycling rates.  In addition, as of 2011, New York City public schools are required to designate a Sustainability Coordinator, whose job is to locate and develop a “site specific” sustainability plan and educate all of the students.

Rationale: This progress report is significant because it highlights the changes that have been made in just five years after PlaNYC was enacted.  Education and knowledge about recycling is essential if PlaNYC wants more New York City residents to recycle, so it is a great step forward to educate children and have them practice the process in their daily lives.  In addition, in 2012, New York City invested in a new recycling processing facility on the Brooklyn waterfront, which allows the city to expand the types of plastics that will be accepted for curbside recycling.  This is important because in the survey conducted by the Bureau of Waste Prevention in the 1990s, researchers learned that the main reason why New York City residents are discouraged from recycling is because they do not know what types of plastics are accepted and which are not.  By educating the public about this, it will eliminate confusion and encourage recycling.

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