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.

Vigilance is Needed to Avoid Fines and Violations

By Thomas Usztoke, Vice President of ManagementTomUsztoke

Whether you believe that New York City’s issuance of building violations is aimed at revenue generation or improving the quality of life, it’s a fact that City inspectors are out in unprecedented numbers with their Rule Books and Violations Notepads at the ready. And the fines continue to increase, keeping building staff, managing agents, and a host of contractors, consultants, architects and engineers busy mitigating your property’s exposure. DEPM’s Compliance Department works continuously with our agents and managers to keep them abreast of the core issues involving violations, mitigation and compliance. Below are key areas where fines can pile up unless systems are in place to ensure that City regulations are being followed:

  • Curbside Debris: Sanitation inspectors routinely issue curbside debris violations. Building staff must keep a keen eye out for the tossed wrapper, discarded cigarette or coffee cup to avoid fines from $50 to $500, depending on occurrences accumulated.
  • Trash Pick-up Times: Sanitation inspectors will issue fines of up to $500 for trash or recycling being put out too early the night before a trash pick-up. Resident Managers and Superintendents should be wary that too early curbside placement can be costly.
  • Recycling: Sanitation inspectors are traveling in DOS-marked ‘patrol cars’ ahead of the regular sanitation trucks randomly opening regular trash bags, rummaging through the garbage in search of recycled plastic and paper products. All it takes is one soda can or magazine in the regular trash to result in an instant ticket. Residents should be encouraged to be diligent in their recycling efforts, as these fines are passed in the form of rising common charges.
  • Snow/Ice Removal: Vigilant snow and ice removal is crucial to avoid dangerous conditions and potential liability claims, as well as fines. Also be mindful of sidewalk cracks, lifts and openings, which can also result in a fine from the Department of Transportation or a liability suit.
  • Standpipe Sprinklers: Annual inspections and daily record-keeping are required. This can be done by your resident manager/superintendent but they must have a special license issued by the FDNY. While the system may pass inspection (it is wise to pre-test the systems with the building plumber), if the daily logs are not in the proper book, or are incomplete, fines can climb into the thousands of dollars. The FDNY licensing tests have become so arduous that some supers have had to study and take the test multiple times before passing. Failure to have a licensed staff member responsible is also a costly violation.
  • Boiler System Inspections: A State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection and a City inspection are both required for boilers. The City inspection is usually handled by the building’s boiler insurance carrier, or by the boiler company.
  • Elevator Inspections: The elevator code division of New York was recently overhauled to bring code up to international standards, as well as abandoning the “Grandfather clause” for old elevators. Elevator companies have increased their charges for these new inspections, and third party inspectors paid by the building are now involved as well. Anything not in compliance with code must be addressed within 90 days. Both compliance costs and fines have skyrocketed, so attention must be paid to these regulations.
  • Rooftop Tanks: Every water tank in New York must be cleaned and inspected annually. Water must be sent out to a lab and the certificate of inspection and the lab certificate of water quality must be kept on premises for five years, posted in a public location and available for any City inspector to review. Fines can be thousands of dollars.
  • Buildings, Health and Fire Department Inspections: Improper basement storage, blocked hallways, improper lighting or lack of emergency lighting, obstacles in stairwells, throw rugs in fire stairs, lack of proper inspection certificates and proof of compliance are all violations that can result in fines. Even a poor attitude by a super can lead to a lengthy list of items to correct and fines to pay.
  • Façade Inspection: Local Law 11/98 (aka Façade Inspection Safety Program, or FISP) requires façade inspection every five years. A new retroactive amendment to this law also requires inspection of railings, terraces, balconies, and fire escapes. New regulations requiring site safety monitors, along with permit fees and rising engineering fees have doubled or even tripled the cost of exterior projects. It’s imperative to work with reputable companies with solid references.

City’s New Recycling Initiative Will Save Money, Reduce Waste

On April 24th, Mayor Bloomberg announced an expansion of the City’s Apartment Building Recycling Initiative Program. The Mayor’s Office refers to this as the largest expansion of the city’s recycling program in 25 years; adding toys, plastic yogurt and coffee cups, food containers and all rigid plastics as part of the list household recyclables.  This new curbside recycling program will be as inclusive as any in the nation.

As recycling is cheaper than shipping waste to landfills, the city will save almost $600,000 in annual export costs by reducing an estimated 50,000 tons of recyclable waste a year.  Further, it takes 70 percent less energy to make plastic from recycled plastics, rather than from raw materials, this effort will reduce the city’s carbon footprint and improve its sustainability.   In partnership with Sims Municipal Recycling (SMS on the NYSE or SGM on the ASX) the program will create 100 jobs at the largest recycling plant in North America opening this summer at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.  The plant will be powered by one of the largest solar installations in the city and house an education center to teach children about recycling.

To sum it up, there will be no more worrying about confusing numbers on the bottom of the container; you need not have to think twice about what can and cannot be recycled.  By mid-summer, every resident will receive instructional mailers describing the expanded recycling program with easy-to-understand illustrations of what you can recycle and how.  Douglas Elliman Property Management will assist building managers and their staff members understand these new regulations as well as replacing the current labels on the building’s recycling bins and mandated signage. While the program already started, the City won’t begin enforcement until rules are formally adopted in mid-July.

We encourage each resident and building to participate in this Apartment Building Recycling Initiative Program (http://www.nyc.gov/recycle) to make New York a cleaner place to live.

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Under the newly expanded Recycling Initiative, the City expects to save almost $600,000 a year, reduce its carbon footprint, and improve sustainability.