Dominick Calsolaro

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Recycle: Syrup bottles, cups

Albany expands plastic types to cut volume of trash sent to Rapp Road

Published on 1/14/2010 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer

ALBANY -- The city is expanding plastic recycling in hopes of more than doubling the percentage of trash diverted from the Rapp Road landfill in the coming decade.
In addition to the kinds of plastic that residents can already dump in their blue recycling bins -- those labeled with numbers 1 and 2 -- the city is now accepting those with numbers 3 through 7, Mayor Jerry Jennings announced Wednesday.

The new class of recyclables includes plastic drinking cups, yogurt containers, butter containers, pancake syrup bottles and prescription pill bottles. Plastics that have no number stamped on them are not recyclable.

The expanded recycling -- which is aimed at keeping non-biodegradable material out of the landfill while reducing the overall amount of trash flowing into it -- was made possible by $150,000 that the Common Council added to the 2010 budget.

To boost awareness, the Department of General Services has put together a new brochure that has begun to circulate with council members and neighborhood associations. The department has also unveiled a new Web site: http://www.capitalregionrecycling.com.

"Better education will bring about better participation, which will ultimately result in a better environment," Jennings said.

Albany's recycling push comes as the city pursues a $41 million, 15-acre expansion of the landfill in the Pine Bush, a controversial proposal green-lighted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation this summer but also the subject of a suit by environmental group Save the Pine Bush.

Without the expansion, the landfill, used by more than a dozen municipalities as well as private trash haulers, is on track to run out of space by April.

Officials have also renewed outreach to Albany's 3,500 commercial building owners to remind them that they must contract for their own recycling services.

General Services Commissioner Nicholas D'Antonio and Director of Recycling Frank Zeoli said it's not clear what percentage of those building owners are abiding by the law, which is why the department included a survey with the letter.

D'Antonio said the goal is to help them start recycling voluntarily "prior to just going out there and hammering them with fines and court cases." City code allows for a fine up to $325 for non-compliance.

Councilman Michael O'Brien said in 2008 about 37 percent of the trash thrown out in the communities that use the landfill was diverted for recycling. The goal is to increase that figure to 68 percent by 2020, O'Brien said.

Jennings said increased plastics recycling goes beyond state requirements.

Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, a strong critic of the landfill expansion, has supported expanded recycling and proposed an ordinance to require compostable food waste to be separated out as well.

When it comes to keeping trash out of Rapp Road, Calsolaro said, "anything helps."

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.