At GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education, five stellar staffers are responsible for covering outreach activities throughout the five boroughs. For almost five years, Ermin Siljkovic has spent countless hours getting to know Manhattan’s communities and working to improve their recycling habits. Ermin took a few minutes between recycling presentations to answer a few questions about his job, and his personal quest for a more sustainable NYC.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Interacting with so many people from all different walks of life and informing them of choices we have available to us, and which of those can have a positive impact on their lives. I guess I am sort of a good deed machine and this is essentially what drives me every day.
What is one of the most common public misconceptions about recycling in NYC?
That it is “too confusing” and “has changed so many times”. Both are untrue!
What is one golden rule you try to teach New Yorkers about recycling?
I encourage folks to stick to the basics by simply going by the tips we teach. There many things in life that we must learn in order to adapt to our roles at home or at work. Recycling is one of those things and thankfully, learning how to recycle at home is not very difficult. Unfortunately, we are not where we would like to be in regards to our diversion rate so I think a big part of our mission is to promote the simplicity of the DSNY curbside residential recycling program. If we can do that successfully I believe we will have then made great strides toward achieving our goal.
Did you recycle as a kid?
I grew up in an era in NYC when our trash burned right under our noses, and later, our family moved to a suburban area where recycling wasn’t implemented until I was practically on my way out to college. Other than occasionally recycling bottles at the supermarket, the short answer is “no”.
What got you interested in recycling?
The realization that I am accountable for my actions and that how I manage my waste plays a big role in this consideration.
What are some steps you have taken in your personal life to leave less of a footprint on the environment?
Aside from composting more of my food scraps (most recently with indoor Bokashi composting) or donating more of my unwanted personal items, I have been really big on growing at least some of my own food during the year and buying locally whenever I can. I am encouraged that this not only benefits the environment but helps build resilience in our communities.
Do you have a favorite story from the field?
Hard to pick just one. I know it sounds cliché but every day there is another new story. I always love finding “diamonds in the rough” which can be best described as individual people who want to recycle but just don’t know how or where to recycle or a property manager or building superintendent who has been looking for advice but just didn’t have access to a person who can explain it to them in way they could understand.