Enforcement the only way to increase recycling in Schenectady
Posting monthly recycling statistics on the city’s website — subject of a Gazette story last Saturday — might shame a few Schenectadians into improving their dismal recycling rate, but it’s hard to imagine that the people inclined to browse that site are the ones who still ignore a state law requiring them to separate their paper, glass, plastic and metals from non-recyclable garbage.
The city has done much to educate residents about the law and the economic benefits of reducing its waste stream, but the city’s recycling rate — as high as 25 percent in the early 1990s — has fallen to single digits. Even a big public relations campaign two years ago, touting the economic and environmental benefits of recycling, had no lasting impact.
Clearly, the carrot, hasn’t worked; so the city needs to consider a stick approach: fining violators up to $50 per offense. Granted, doing so would be a headache, probably requiring the city to add a couple temporary positions responsible for nothing but enforcement. But the initiative would likely pay for itself in short order, and as word about the crackdown spread, more people would start to comply. The city has essentially operated under an honor system all these years, and it’s not working.
Likewise, General Services Commissioner Carl Olsen’s idea of a “pay-as-you-throw” program (where residents have to buy special garbage bags from the city to dump their trash) probably wouldn’t work, either, as scofflaws and cheapskates would simply dump their garbage surreptitiously.
Until the city starts enforcing the recycling law, this problem is not going to go away.