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On Earth Day, schools criticized for lagging on recycling

A year after the Department of Education promised to get its schools recycling, a councilmember complains they are still woefully behind the curve. Bill de Blasio, a council member from Brooklyn, announced today (Earth Day) that the DOE has not followed through on its promise to implement recycling in its schools by naming a “recycling coordinator” to head up each school. Half of the 44 schools de Blasio contacted have yet to name a recycling coordinator.

“Almost one year ago the Department of Education promised us results but now, on Earth Day, they are still behind the curve,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The debate over recycling in public schools has been raging for quite a while. The City Council passed a mandatory recycling law in 1989, and five years later the public school system was found to be in violation of that law. The delay in recycling was attributed to “bureaucratic apathy,” a characterization that critics are echoing 15 years later. The DOE mandates that all schools recycle, but leaves enforcement up to each individual school. In 2007, the Department of Sanitation estimated a 9.5 percent recycling rate for public schools, which lagged behind the citywide rate of 16.5 percent, suggesting that some kids might be recycling at home but not at their school.

City council members have been championing efforts to green schools. This spring, de Blasio led a crusade to ban environmentally loathsome Styrofoam trays from school cafeterias. Fellow City Councilman Lew Fidler has been pushing for schools to use energy-efficient light bulbs.

UPDATE: The Department of Education released a statement saying 1,223 schools have recycling coordinators who will be receiving training this spring from the Department of Sanitation.