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Green Living Team Unites Residents and Staff to Revive Recycling

Food has always been common ground that brings people together.  Now, some New Yorkers are uniting over the scraps. This year the West Side Federation of Senior Supportive Housing (WSFSSH) hosted a Living Green Team Awards Ceremony, to celebrate and recognize superintendents and building managers who set the standard in energy efficiency and water conservation, among other environmental initiatives.  In April the 24-building, 1,800+ unit housing and social service agency honored five representatives of buildings that partnered with GrowNYC to improve solid waste management through recycling and composting. 

The first phase of the program was at Borinquen Court and The Claremont in the Bronx, where recycling rates were particularly low.  Staff from GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (OROE) performed “chute room makeovers” and conducted workshops to teach residents and staff what to recycle. 

Chute Room BeforeChute Room After

(Chute room before and after makeover)

Encouraged by the success of the Bronx initiatives, WSFSSH saw a new opportunity when the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) began accepting applications for curbside organics collection from multi-unit buildings.  Working with GrowNYC, the agency enrolled six buildings in the program in a matter of two months! 

WSFFSH Composts!

(Building staff celebrate their new organics bins with a healthy snack)

The introduction of a new waste stream did not come without challenges.  Like many NYC buildings, space limitations were a hurdle at some properties.  Staff faced other obstacles, such as managing food waste from its own internal kitchen operations and educating residents with severe disabilities.  The Living Green Team, a voluntary subcommittee of staff employed at WSFSSH, turned these challenges into opportunities by incorporating individual suggestions and concerns of both staff and residents into site-specific plans tailored to each building’s particular needs. 

After the organics program was fully implemented, even skeptical building managers admitted they were pleasantly surprised to find decreases in trash as high as 50%, and an overall improvement in hygiene, thanks to improved waste sorting and smaller bags of garbage.  During his keynote presentation, Juan Bentencur, the Superintendent of the Frederick Fleming House in Chelsea, reviewed waste prevention initiatives at his building and reported that efforts had reduced bags of refuse from 19 bags to about 5 bags of trash set out on collection day. 

(Superintendent Juan Bentencur reviews waste prevention initiatives, like purchasing reusable cups and adding organics collection)

Following the awards ceremony, managers placed napkins and paper cake plates in the organics bin, recycled plastic cups and cutlery and exited in animated conversation about the possibilities of for waste prevention in their buildings.

Have a question about recycling in your building?  Contact our Recycling Outreach Coordinators!