Buffalo finally hires recycling coordinator

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

Buffalo has its first recycling coordinator in four years.

Commissioner of Public Works Steven Stepniak has selected Susan Attridge for the job that has been vacant since 2009. Attridge was hired May 2 at an annual salary of $54,500. She lives in Hamburg and will have to move to the city as a requirement for all Civil Service positions. The city hasn’t officially announced her hiring.

The job had been funded but vacant, with many of the duties handled by Raymour Nosworthy, the son-in-law of University Common Council Member Bonnie Russell, an ally of Mayor Byron Brown. The city advertised the position last October after Investigative Post questioned officials about the vacancy in light of the city’s anemic recycling program.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry and an associates degree in Ecology from Paul Smith’s College. She served as Erie County’s recycling coordinator for seven years through 2005. Her most recent job was as an account manager for Cascades Recovery, a recycling company, where she worked since March 2012.

Attridge was a research assistant for the New York State Legislative Commission on Solid Waste from 1984-89, helping draft legislation that resulted in the Solid Waste Management Act of 1986. She also has worked as an environmental consultant and as an area manager for the pulp and paper manufacture formerly known as AbitibiBowater Inc.

“I have a great deal of respect for Susan. She did a fabulous job opening up the Buffalo Market. She built strong relationships with the key recycling coordinators and top accounts in the Buffalo area,” wrote Stephanie Fairless, a regional account manager for AbitibiBowater Inc., on Attridge’s LinkedIn page.

Attridge has a challenging job ahead of her.

As we reported in February, the city’s recycling program has struggled for reasons that include the lack of a recycling coordinator and public education program. The city has almost $400,000 of unspent funds earmarked for recycling education.

Despite these shortcomings, the city’s overall recycling rate, which includes yard waste, tires and electronics, increased  from 8.5 percent to 13.6 percent over the course of last year. Most of that increase can be attributed to the distribution of green totes in December 2011 to residents in one- and two-family houses.  Even with the increase in recycling, Buffalo still lags far behind the national average of 34 percent.

Focusing on increasing recycling activity in the poorer neighborhoods might be a good start.

Investigative Post followed recycling trucks for a week last December and found that fewer than 60 percent of city households are participating in the curbside program. What’s more, participation drops significantly in poorer neighborhoods.

We also reported the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, landlord to some 10,000 low-income and elderly residents, isn’t following City Charter mandates that require recycling for all multi-family and commercial buildings.

Furthermore, the city school system lacks a comprehensive recycling program, although officials are slowly introducing  green totes into schools and developing educational programs.

Nosworthy, who was a special assistant to the public works commissioner, has been promoted to management analyst for the Department of Administration, Finance, Policy and Urban Affairs. He moved into the job April 8; the Civil Service position pays $48,526 annually, which amounts to a 30 percent salary increase.

Nosworthy has contributed $750 to the campaign of Mayor Brown, who officiated Nosworthy’s wedding in July 2009.

Attridge had not contributed to the mayor’s campaign through Jan. 15, the latest filing on record with the state Board of Elections.