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NYC - recycle more, waste less New York City Recycles NYC Department of Sanitation

2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot click here for info on public space recycling in NYC

how locations were chosen
how the pilot was promoted
pilot highlights
pilot final report

Locations for the 2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot

Test sites for the Spring 2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot included:

Bronx: Poe Park leaving NYCWasteLess

Brooklyn: Columbus Park leaving NYCWasteLess

Manhattan: Union Square Park leaving NYCWasteLess  & Whitehall Ferry Terminal

Queens: Hoffman Park leaving NYCWasteLess

Staten Island: Tappen Park leaving NYCWasteLess, Clove Lakes Park leaving NYCWasteLess, St. George Ferry Terminal

At each location, there were pairs of recycling containers, both within the sites as well as the perimeters, to capture recyclables from passersby.

See current locations of public space recycling containers collected by the NYC Department of Sanitation.

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How Locations Were Chosen for the 2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot

The locations for the public space recycling containers were chosen in coordination with several city agencies (Sanitation leaving NYCWasteLess, Transportation leaving NYCWasteLess, and Parks & Recreation leaving NYCWasteLess), as well as City Hall and the NYC Council leaving NYCWasteLess. The participation of Transportation and Parks & Recreation on-site maintenance staff was key to making the effort work.

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 phone kiosk poster
 ferry terminal poster
Promotion for the Spring 2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot

From April through June 2007, bus stops and phone kiosks in the immediate area of nearly all the pilot locations promoted public space recycling through area-specific advertising.

To help publicize public space recycling in the Staten Island Ferry Terminals, the DSNY Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling  (BWPRR) worked with the NYC Department of Transportation leaving NYCWasteLess and leaving NYCWasteLess to place promotional posters in the Ferry Terminals and on the Staten Island Ferry.

Other ways to promote public space recycling at the Ferry Terminals included the deployment of BWPRR's blue and green recycling bin characters, the distribution of Metro leaving NYCWasteLess newspapers that had a recycling message on the cover, and the handing out free bottled water with a "public space recycling" label. 

BWPRR Outreach Coordinators played a key role in publicizing the Pilot. They accompanied the blue and green recycling bin characters at events, distributed promotional materials, and encouraged passersby to use the new bins.

blue and green recycling charactersmetro paper wrappromotional water

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Highlights from the 2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot

Public space recycling works well for newspaper and other recyclable paper.
Participation was, on average, good for paper recycling, and the material placed in the paper bins was relatively free of non-recyclable trash (contamination). Overall, the contamination rate was less than 5%.

Bottle and can recycling in public spaces is problematic.
In contrast to paper, contamination rates for bottle and can (MGP) recycling were very high (almost 37%), and tonnages were lower than Paper recycling tonnages at all sites.

Public space recycling is best in downtown areas dense with commuters and lunching office crowds.
The sites with the lowest contamination rates and the largest amounts collected were the ferry terminals, Union Square, and Columbus Park. These sites are characterized by heavy commuter use and are located in dense, downtown neighborhoods with large numbers of office workers who use the public space for lunch. In contrast, public space recycling was highly contaminated and yielded little material in residential parks frequented primarily by families and children. Such users are less likely to generate newspapers, bottles, and cans than are commuters and lunching office workers.

There's much more to successful public space recycling than just setting out a bin.
Successful public space recycling required ongoing monitoring of bins by maintenance staff. They continually replaced bag liners so the bins were not overflowing, stored the separated paper and MGP over the course of the week, and properly placed the bags of recyclables in a designated spot for weekly collection. Future efforts should only be mounted in areas with permanent maintenance staff who are committed to working with DSNY collections on a longterm basis.

Other cities encounter similar challenges as NYC.
For this pilot, the DNSY Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling researched public space recycling in London, England; Toronto, Canada; Seattle, and Portland. All cities face challenges keeping their public space recycling free from contamination, and all place bins in high traffic areas where efforts are most likely to succeed. 

Carefully located public space recycling can be an important symbolic and educational feature of NYC's recycling program.
Contrary to popular opinion, waste generated in public spaces is only a tiny fraction of residential, public maintenance, and commercial wastes overall. While public space recycling won't raise the city's diversion rate by more than fraction of a percentage point, it is an important way to reinforce the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle message

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Final Report of NYC'S 2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot Program

The files below are PDF (Portable Document Format) documents; you’ll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader leaving NYCWasteLess to display and print them.

Report on Results

Appendix I: Public Space Recycling in Other Cities

Appendix II: Site Profiles

  • Part 1: Union Square Park, Manhattan; Columbus Park, Brooklyn; Whitehall Ferry Terminal, Manhattan; St. George Ferry Terminal, Staten Island
  • Part 2: Poe Park, the Bronx; Hoffman Park, Queens
  • Part 3: Tappen Park and Clove Lakes Park, Staten Island

Appendix III: NYC Public Space Recycling Pilot: Consultant's Report

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