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Street Recycling Program Launched in Midtown East

By Mary Johnson | November 29, 2012 9:17am

MIDTOWN EAST — The East Midtown Partnership has dispatched an army of recycling bins to wage an eco-friendly war on overflowing trash cans in the neighborhood.

After noticing that some parts of the district were plagued by an inordinate amount of refuse, the business improvement district (BID), in collaboration with the city’s Department of Sanitation, launched an effort to install 21 paper-only recycling bins in problematic, high-traffic areas.

“They are located near subway entrances and other areas where we’ve measured a high amount of overflow primarily due to discarded newspapers,” said Rob Byrnes, president of the East Midtown Partnership.

“Keeping the area clean has always been a prime goal of the board [of the partnership],” he added. “They are also very environmentally conscious. So combined, this just seemed like a natural project.”

The effort, which cost the business improvement district some $33,000 to implement, has been several years in the making, Byrnes said.

The BID supplies the district with 166 trash cans that, for the most part, keep the area clean, Byrnes explained.

“But we have noticed times, especially during the morning and evening commutes … that we have some serious overflow conditions,” he said. “We realized we have a paper problem.”

Byrnes said discarded cans and bottles are frequently scavenged out of the trash, but newspapers take up a lot of space inside waste bins.

“It doesn’t take more than a few dozen people, and suddenly you’ve got a trash can that’s overflowing and hard to service,” he noted.

The partnership reached out to the Sanitation Department to put a program in place, but the city agency and the group of area businessmen and women disagreed over what recycling bins placed in the district should look like, Byrnes said.

While the Sanitation Department wanted the partnership to use its existing recycling bin design — a bright, neon green — the partnership wanted a receptacle that better matched its existing black trash bins already set up around the district.

After reviewing numerous designs, the two groups finally came to a consensus and agreed to allow the partnership to have less ostentatious recycling bins mostly in black with neon green tops, Byrnes said.

With that design in place, the program began with one prototype unit set up on East 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue back in June.

“We’re really pleased with how it’s gone so far,” Byrnes said. “As [people] get used to the prototype being there, they’re using it more and more. It’s not contaminated, and it’s removing recyclable materials from the waste stream.”

Byrnes said that the program will expand beyond the initial batch of 21 bins if demand warrants it. And he hopes the project will inspire others to launch similar eco-friendly endeavors.

“We’re hoping that this serves as a model for other BIDs and other public-private partnerships around the city,” Byrnes said.