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GRASS-ROOTS RECYCLING CHALLENGES

By Jonathan RoweStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 13, 1990



NEWYORK

In her work boots and shorts, Christina Datz has the sturdy good looks of someone you might meet hiking in the Alps. But Ms. Datz, who came to the United States 11 years ago from West Germany, is leveling mountains instead of climbing them - specifically, the waste that accumulates at Village Green four days a week. She is the recycling center coordinator, and the work never ends.

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With less accent than one might expect, Datz reels off the statistics: 2 tons of plastic a month, 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of metal, well over 10,000 pounds of glass. Plus computer paper, direct-mail letters, and so on.

It's a small dent in the 17,000 tons New York City collects daily. But large things start small. Long after the center closes, Datz and other volunteers can be seen sorting and hauling behind the locked chain-link fence.

Despite a commitment to recycling, the city is not giving grass-roots efforts like Village Green much help, Datz says. The center has to complete tedious monthly paper work for a small $10,000 grant that pays Datz's salary. To use a city truck means getting entangled with union work rules, Saturday overtime, and the like.

``With the city there is so much red tape, a whole can of worms,'' Datz says. ``The city wants to control the whole thing. They don't want grass-roots groups to be too successful.''

Village Green has survived, largely because it has its own panel truck, which looks like a refugee from the '60s. Datz, who is working towards a degree in environmental studies, picks up a little extra money by selling the scrap at a recycling center in the Bronx.

``You get by,'' she says.