Hold on to that bottle

When I moved from Oakland to NYC, recycling plastic bottles and glass bottles became a lot harder. Back in Oakland, the trash cans wore little recycling hats where you could place your bottles while out and about. Here in New York, you have to duck into a restaurant or carry the bottle back home. It’s surprising, given how NYC is really far ahead with regards to public trans.

So I decided to map the locations of all of NYC’s recycling bins. To create the map, I used a lesser-known product by Google called Fusion Tables. Fusion Tables allow you to basically upload your data to Google’s servers, render it into an Excel-like table structure, and plot the data on the map using columns (in this case, lattitude & longitude). Then you can use the Google Maps API to create a map and add a fusion table layer, linking to your data. If you have a large number of ‘markers’ for a relatively small area, I think using the fusion table layer over markers is the way to go.

As you can see from the map, there are not that many recycling bins given the population. A pilot study by the NYC Department of Sanitation justifies the small number of public recycling bins with the following:

The Department of Sanitation’s comprehensive study of residential and street basket waste looked at the contents of street basket waste, finding that over 40% consisted of materials that could be recycled. However, because street baskets contain such a small fraction of NYC’s overall waste (around 1%), even if it were possible to recycle all these materials, it won’t make a difference in the amount of waste going to disposal (40% of 1% = 0.4%).

Claiming that “it won’t make a difference” struck me as kind of odd. Isn’t the point of recycling each person making a difference on a small scale? Perhaps it didn’t make sense to invest money into new recycle bins and sorting the recycling, but even that can be argued against using the general principle above.


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