Breaking Down the Process Recycling in the Big Apple

The phrase "Reduce, reuse, recycle" has become something of a mantra in our times - though you still occasionally see a glass bottle or plastic container just stuffed in the trash, more and more people from all walks of life are becoming more environmentally-conscientious. For the city's residential co-op and condo communities, recycling has become the rule rather than the exception.

"We've found that compliance to recycling laws in co-ops and condos is only as good as the building staff you have," says Robert Lange, director of the Department of Sanitation's Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse & Recycling. "Co-op and condo owners, and the rest of New York City residents, are constantly being educated about recycling rules in the city. But no matter how well the message is grasped, it all comes down to what trash to put in what cans."

"We currently capture about 50 percent of [the waste material] we target in terms of recycling," declares Lange. "If residents don't put the materials in the right can, we don't have the chance to capture it." A board or management company can create an infrastructure to make sure that recycling rules are complied with and are required to educate their tenants through lease riders.

Teaching Residents to Recycle

Residents can be informed, says Lange, "by posting information throughout the building. This can be done in chute rooms, common areas; the building has multiple choices. People have to be told where they're supposed to bring it, how they're supposed to sort it." He also notes that the city seeks to educate residents through mailings that explain sorting methods and recycling policies. The program has made great strides since it came into being a relatively short time ago, back in 1986, as a voluntary affair (the program passed into law in 1989).

Mailings from city agencies may be all well and good, but it's the "human touch that counts," says Jeff Heidings, president of Siren Management Corp. in Manhattan. "For the most part we see rather good compliance in our buildings. Intermittently, though, we do end up sending reminder letters to our client buildings. In fully-staffed buildings, the refuse is picked up and sorted; in buildings without a resident super, the tenants naturally have to take their garbage down to the sidewalk and sort it into general refuse and recyclables in appropriately labeled cans."

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