By: George Garneau
As prices soar, old newspapers disappear from curbside, and
New York City prosecutes self-appointed recyclers as thieves sp.
FORGET ABOUT DIAMONDS.
Soaring prices have made discarded newspapers a new target for theft in New York, city officials say.
The New York City Department of Sanitation has arrested three men for allegedly swooping ahead of city crews and stealing newspaper bundles left at curbside for recycling.
The arrests, in two incidents, were the first under a new policy of prosecuting recycling thieves under criminal statutes. After a raft of thefts broke out a couple of months ago, the city realized that civil fines were not deterring pilferers, so it began charging them with theft, according to sanitation spokesman Lucian Chalfen.
There was no estimate on how many tons of paper had been lifted, but Chalfen said thefts started to rise when prices shot up for old newspapers and magazines.
Now, people who steal material left for recycling are no longer hit with civil fines of $50 to $250 for obstruction of sanitation operations. Instead, they face misdemeanor charges of petty larceny and possession of stolen property, and up to a year in jail and a fine for each conviction.
The law says that, once left at the curb for recycling, newspapers, magazines, bottles and cans become city property, Chalfen said.
So far, Demetrio Paredes of Union City, N.J., was arrested and charged with stealing a ton of paper from the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
And, early in the morning on Jan. 11, sanitation police arrested two Long Island men, David Bailey of Levitown and Paul Lutwin of North Valley Stream, and charged them with stealing two tons of discarded paper. Police said the men also had receipts showing they had already sold nearly five tons of paper to a recycler, Chalfen said.
Violators are fingerprinted and booked, and can have their trucks impounded.
“It’s costing us on both sides,” Chalfen said. “We are being deprived of revenue from delivering this to recyclers, and we are sending dedicated men and trucks to pick up the material.”
Chalfen, the assistant sanitation commissioner in charge of public affairs, blames a $60 to $80 swing in the past few months in the price that recyclers pay for old newspapers and magazines. This means that instead of paying $20 a ton to get rid of the stuff, as the city used to do, it is now being paid $60 a ton for old newspapers and magazines.
Because of surging demand and prices for paper for recycling, the city expects $4.5 million in revenue this year from the 300,000 or so tons of newspapers and magazines it collects on weekly routes. If nobody steals them first, of course.
Paper industry executives say a global shortage of fiber sources has sent prices skyrocketing for all grades of recyclable paper, from office paper to corrugated cardboard.
“We’re paying a lot,” said Thomas M. Hahn, president and CEO of Garden State Newspaper Co. in Elmwood Park, N.J., one of the oldest of a handful of companies that make newsprint entirely from recycled paper. Garden State buys about 300,000 short tons a year in order to make 240,000 tons of newsprint and pays anywhere from $30 a ton, to private citizens who bring papers in to nearly $150 a ton to other suppliers, many of them municipalities. Prices depend on volume, transportation costs and other factors.
Prices skyrocketed 600% in a year, said Newspaper Association of America lobbyist Paul Boyle. Mills paid $20 a ton in 1993, $120 by the end of last year.
Soaring overseas demand has driven export prices for old newspapers to $165 per ton, Hahn said.
The government’s closing of large forests has put several hundred Northwest sawmills out of business, crimping another fiber source, and four years of low newsprint prices have encouraged producers to shift fiber to more profitable grades.
Shrinking supplies of recycled fiber raises concerns about whether newspapers can get enough recycled newsprint to comply with the voluntary or mandatory requirements in place in 28 states.
The paper industry says 58% of all newspapers are being reclaimed, and 35 mills use some amount of recycled fiber. Many papers, however, end up in a growing array of other products.
At the same time, prices are soaring for fresh newsprint, which is expected to cost publishers 25% to 30% more a ton this year than it did last year. Newsprint manufacturers are catching up after losing billions of dollars since an advertising slump beginning in 1991 slashed demand for newsprint.
Meanwhile, political pressure has boosted demand for newsprint made with recycled fiber, and North American manufacturers have built de-inking plants to reclaim fiber from old newspapers. This, too, has raised demand for old newspapers.
?( New York City Department of Sanitation workers collecting newspapers for recycling. The department says it recently arrested three men for swooping ahead of city crews and stealing newspaper bundles left at curbside for recycling.) [Photo & Caption]