New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday announced a large-scale change to the Big Apple’s recycling program, adding mixed rigid plastics to its curbside recycling collection.

In the hopes of doubling New York City’s infamously low recycling rate, as well as saving on landfill costs, Mayor Bloomberg announced that all mixed rigid plastics are being added to the city’s curbside recycling collection program, saying “starting today, if it is rigid plastic — any kind of rigid plastic — recycle it.”

Regardless of any resin code, or as Mayor Bloomberg put it, “all these crazy codes on the bottom,” it will be collected curbside as part of the city’s recycling program. The mayor said that this will result in 50,000 tons of plastic saved from disposal each year and an annual savings of $600,000 in shipping costs.

The mayor said that the program change was part of the city’s target of doubling the New York’s recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017, which will save the city $60 million annually, “because it’s cheaper to recycle than to ship waste to landfills.”

The announcement was praised by many in the plastics industry, with the American Chemistry Council saying it “commends the new plastics recycling initiative announced in New York City, which reflects a growing trend of cities and communities across the country expanding the collection of these types of containers.”

“This will make it easier for the public to participate in the recycling program,” Robert Lange, director of the New York City Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling told Resource Recycling.  “We’ve done a great deal of market research over the years and all that research said, for the public, the most confusing part of the recycling program was what plastics to include in their recycling set-outs.”

The expansion will be promoted by a citywide marketing campaign including mailers, decals and increased signage around the city.

The program will begin accepting mixed rigid plastics next week, but the mayor said enforcement of the new rules won’t begin until July.

Materials recovered by the program will be managed by Sims Municipal Recycling, which has three facilities operating in the area —  in Long Island City, the Bronx and in Jersey City, New Jersey — and is close to opening another in Brooklyn, as part of a 20-year contract the company has with the city.

The mayor also announced an expansion of the city’s food scrap composting pilot program, currently in operation in some Brooklyn and Manhattan public schools, to residents of Staten Island’s Westerleigh neighborhood next month.

The program will accept yard debris, food scraps and compostable paper products. (“tissues, napkins, soiled paper, paper plates, etc.”), at curbside every week. He said the city is planning to expand the composting program to other neighborhoods in the fall and to all city schools over the next two years.

Participating households will be given a starter kit including a brown curbside bin, a starter supply of city-approved compostable liners and a small kitchen container. Each bin will be equipped with a radio frequency identification tag which will allow the city to track participation in the program.