Recycling: How to Improve Resident Compliance

Recycling is mandatory in New York City, with the goal of decreasing the 12,000 TONS of garbage that must be exported out of the City every single day. While 77% of this waste is recyclable, only 20% is actually being recycled currently. Since the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island in 2001, there has been no landfill in the City of New York. There is also no incinerator, so all our garbage must be exported for separation, treatment and disposal, at a huge expense to taxpayers.

Residents in multi-family buildings recycle at just half the rate of those in single-family homes, for a variety of reasons, ranging from anonymity of disposal to lack of information, poor communication and lack of financial incentives.

Some buildings have had great success in their recycling efforts, using a variety of strategies, including the following:

• Communication: Be sure to provide clear signage and well-marked receptacles in all garbage rooms. The Department of Sanitation will provide free signs to display. Inform existing residents as well as new buyers who are moving in. Hold an informational/social event to inform residents, such as a lobby drop-in to hand out organics pails and recycling bags.

• Education: Take advantage of all 3 additional Department of Sanitation curbside collection services for buildings of 10 units or more: organics, clothing and the e-cycle program for electronics. Inform residents of all these programs and provide bins in the basement for these specialized items.

• Containers: The City gives out free organics pails that can be distributed to residents.

• Enforcement: Gentle enforcement is key to compliance. Some buildings impose fines after a third offense. The board should decide what is the best strategy for your building.

• Rewards: Thank people for good recycling efforts. Some buildings have even held a pizza party for staff and residents as a thank you for good recycling compliance.

• Create a Team: Create a team of owners, residents, managers, and building staff to work together to make the system work. The board may want to appoint a committee to research and implement a plan to improve recycling in your building.

• Convey the Benefits: Saving money on chute cleaning, reducing policing efforts by staff, avoiding fines, preventing rats, improving staff morale if recycling rules are followed—these are some of the benefits of recycling. Collecting organics can help cut down on rats because all the food is placed in completely airtight containers, and not in garbage bags that can rip and leak and that rats and other pests can bite through. And the long-term goal is to reduce the City’s waste removal costs…which will save taxpayers money.

• Education: Free training for staff is available through Union 32BJ and also at the Department of Sanitation.

• More Information: Visit ManhattanSWAB.org to download recycling guides and info and to learn more about how to educate your staff and residents to help improve recycling in your building.

fresh kills

The former Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island was closed in 2001 and has since been reclaimed as a beautiful public park. Reducing NYC’s waste stream through recycling can help reduce the 12,000 tons of garbage we export daily…by as much as 60%, if New Yorkers are committed to the program.

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