Paterson revives its defunct environmental commission

BY Briana Vannozzi, Senior Correspondent |

You see it on litter-lined streets. Teams of trucks are deployed from Department of Public Works yards to collect it. But Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh says community recycling numbers are way down — some 20 percent in just the last few years.

“Unfortunately, for the last four years, the environmental commission has been defunct, and as a result you’ve seen a decline in cardboard, newspaper and commingled recycling,” said Sayegh.

The effect is more wide-reaching than you might think. And that’s why on Thursday with the support of city council behind him, the mayor reactivated the Paterson Environmental Commission.

“Recycling has two benefits: one, you reduce your tipping fees so you pay less for your garbage to be collected; two, you get paid more by the state for recycling more, so when you’re removing recyclables out of what is considered garbage and recycling, you get paid and you save money as a result.”

“If you see a neighborhood that’s filled with garbage in the street, it automatically becomes a magnet for other types of crimes, whether it be prostitution, whether it be drug dealing, those other crimes come to those areas that look unclean and unkept,” said Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale.

Speziale calls it crime prevention through environmental design. Cleaner streets equal safer streets.

“The broken windows theory is true: when you see garbage in the street, people think no one cares about this area, so it starts at litter and it ends at a shooting,” he said.

“Putting this in our households and putting this in our streets will give the opportunity to the constituents to build our revenues, to bring forward more clean streets and to be part of the changes that we want in Paterson,” said Paterson Councilman Luis Velez.

Sayegh created the commission in 2010 while serving as a council member. In its heyday, the group helped the city collect several thousand tons of newspaper, plastic and commingled items each year. The commission will have nine members, seven appointed by Sayegh and two alternates by the council. They’ve already got a head start, recently purchasing 600 new recycling bins to give out to the community.

So just what kind of savings will this mean for taxpayers?

“It’s considerable, we don’t have an exact figure right now, but it is considerable. We’re talking about the potential to make millions,” said Sayegh.

Residents can find a recycling schedule in their mailbox or at any municipal office. It also runs through what can and cannot go into those big blue bins. In a city of roughly 140,000 residents, the mayor says that should see equate to tons of recyclables, and potentially tons of savings.