TODAY

TODAY   |  April 22, 2013

New York City gets a recycling makeover

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is announcing a change to the way every New Yorker throws out their trash, making plastic takeout containers recyclable for the first time. The change will help save the earth and save the city money at the same time. MSNBC’s Alex Wagner reports.

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>>> earth day . we're talking trash. and in new york , just like everything else, our trash is getting a makeover. msnbc's alex wagner is here to explain. good morning, alex .

>> good morning, natalie. happy earth day . tomorrow, mayor bloomberg is announcing a major change to the way all of us in new york recycle our garbage. because of that, for the first time ever, containers like this are going to be recyclable. we're going to see a landmark change in the way new yorkers deal with their trash. it's going to save us a lot of money. this is waverly, virginia. but a whole lot of new york city is buried right here. new york pays big bucks to ship out its trash.

>> the here and now with recycling is it costs us a lot less to recycle than to send it to a landfill.

>> new york city has no active landfills, so it currently ships three million tons of trash a year to be buried up state, as well as in pennsylvania, virginia, ohio, and south carolina , at a price tag of $300 million.

>> the real value of recycling is short-term. instead of $90 a ton, it could cost us $70 a ton.

>> mayor bloomberg wants to double the composting rate to 30%. the effects would be significant, considering that every new yorker sends 700 pound of trash to landfills every year.

>> waste is simply an indication of inefficiency. it's inefficient for society. it's inefficient financially. and it's inefficient environmentally.

>> according to the epa, americans produce 250 million tons of garbage in 2010 , and recycled or composted about a third of it, 85 million tons. another 29 million tons of trash were burned to make fuel. but the majority of america's garbage was buried in landfills. 135 million tons of trash. the equivalent of 370 empire state buildings.

>> in the landfill, you let things break down as best you can and what you're main with is the remaining substances that you're going to have to take care of for a long time.

>> not all cities recycle equally.

>> san franciscans are diverting 80% of our waste from the landfill.

>> no doubt some part of that has to do with the city's garbage tax.

>> the more that you recycle and compost in san francisco , the lower your garbage bills.

>> in new york , mayor bloomberg is spending money to save money. a new recycling facility will allow residents to recycle all kinds of plastics, including that most new york of plastics, the takeout container.

>> it used to be you could only recycle a certain kind of plastic and there was a mark on the bottom. number one, i can never remember which was the good mark or the bad mark. number two, i could never find it. and with my eyes, i couldn't really see it. the new processes are if it's rigid, we take it.

>> the mayor estimates that by 2017 , this recycling push will save $60 million a year.

>> i'm 71 years old. i'm probably not going to see 2050 .

>> we hope you do.

>> well, you're nice to say so. it's not clear everybody else does. but the bottom line is i'd like my kids who are going to be around in 2050 , god willing , to be able to breathe clean air and to live.

>> with each piece of trash recycled, a little less of america and its future is buried in the ground. good news, guys, is that we can order that takeout with a little less guilt. these containers are now going to be recyclable.

>> i was shocked to learn that those are not already recyclable. i've spent a decade recycling those.

>> washing them out.

>> you've already been in the practice.

>> the yogurt cups, too.

>> yes. eat that yogurt with abandon.

>> thank you, alex . we'll have more on this topic on your show tomorrow at noon.

>> we will.