Recycling coming to Buffalo’s waterfront

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

In San Francisco, residents can recycle food waste. In fact, it’s mandated.

In Seattle, residents can recycle cigarette butts.

But in Buffalo, we can’t even get recycling bins downtown.

Despite this, there is something good to report. Baby steps, folks.

Canalside visitors will soon notice bins for recycling cans and bottles at the popular waterfront destination.

Wednesday morning, the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in the Town of Tonawanda provided the city with 50 recycling containers.

This is a step in the right direction in the city’s effort to boost its dismal recycling rate, which is less than half the national average.

But what about downtown? The only time there are any public recycling bins downtown is for special events.

“We are going to be trying this at Canalside, which is heavily trafficked,” said Mayor Byron Brown, who accepted Coca-Cola’s recycling grant for the containers Wednesday.

“If that works well, we’ll be looking at public recycling bins in other heavily trafficked areas of the city.”

The Linwood Eldery Housing complex on Linwood Avenue is among the many large apartment complexes that do not recycle.

Linwood Elderly Housing complex on Linwood Avenue is among the large complexes that do not recycle.

Brown said his administration is prepared to tackle another recycling issue: the failure of many large apartment complexes to recycle.

“We have been talking to multi-tenant buildings about recycling and we will be rolling out a program in the future for more of these multi-tenant buildings to recycle,” the mayor said.

Honoring a pledge he had made three years ago, Brown in April launched a marketing campaign to boost the city’s recycling rate above the national average of 34 percent.

“We’ve been working hard to increase our recycling rate,” Brown said.

The city certainly has taken steps to boost recycling, but there are numerous shortcomings that continue to plague the program.

For example, the city’s recycling law still hasn’t been brought in line with the state mandate, although Common Council President Darius Pridgen in February asked the Corporation Counsel to review the recycling provisions in the City Charter and recommend changes. The charter fails to mandate recycling for one- and two-family households or institutions such as churches.

However, changing the law is only a symbolic move without enforcement. And Brown has said in the past that his administration would rather focus on educating and marketing the recycling program than enforcement.

In addition, the school system has made little progress with increasing recycling. Of the 58 schools, 27 continue to only recycle cardboard and paper. The rest either use green totes or a larger receptacle for mixed recyclables.

If the Canalside recycling effort works – and it should – the mayor might want to look at adding some bins downtown, where he expects some 4,000 new residents over the next five years.