WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Christina Haas wants to help uptown residents clean up their acts.
The Washington Heights resident recently launched Leave No Footprint, a business dedicated to helping northern Manhattanites recycle hard-to-get-rid-of items such as batteries, leftover paint and old electronics.
Like many entrepreneurs, Haas, 41, drew inspiration from her own life to come up with the idea for her business.
“I was at home looking at piles and bags of what many would consider trash, but they were things I didn’t want to put into the regular trash stream,” she said. “I thought, I can’t be the only person who has this problem — a house full of stuff but no time to take everything to the proper recycling places.”
Haas currently works as a broadcast standards manager at ABC but has a longtime interest in environmentalism. She has a master’s degree in environmental sciences and hopes to use it to reduce waste and divert materials from landfills. She thinks that other New Yorkers want to do the same, but aren’t sure of how to accomplish that goal.
“I believe people want to do the right thing in terms of recycling, but it’s hard, especially in New York City where the program is limited,” Haas explained.
The city does provide curbside recycling pickup for common items such as cardboard boxes, soda cans and milk cartons. However, many items are not accepted by the program and have to be taken to special drop-off centers in hard-to-reach corners of the city or dumped during special e-recycling events.
Haas hopes to act as a middleman in order to get other people’s stuff where it needs to go.
When she picks up an order from a customer, she takes it to a storage place that she rents and sorts through the load. Her first priority is to donate materials whenever possible to nonprofit organizations and schools. For items that are no longer usable, she determines the best way to recycle them, whether that’s through the city or through private companies that offer free recycling programs, such as Best Buy.
Haas also plans to work with companies such as TerraCycle, which collects difficult-to-recycle packaging materials and turns them into new products — such as a shoulder bag made from soda pull tabs or a picture frame made from a bike chain.
“We’re very lucky in New York because there are so many organizations that recycle just about anything you could think of,” she said.
Haas came up with the idea for Leave No Footprint about two months ago. Before opening for business, she floated the idea on several local listservs to see if people were interested in such a service. The positive response convinced her to try the idea out on a part-time basis.
She also researched other waste-removal services like 1-800-JUNK, but found that no one else was approaching the business with a specific focus on upcycling and recycling.
Leave No Footprint has only been in operation for about a week, but Haas has already done two pickups and has three more scheduled. She said that most popular items people have by far are old electronics.
Bruce Jaffe, who runs his own computer repair business Computer Tutor/Computer Doctor, recently hired Haas to remove several pieces of equipment that had been crowding his apartment for years. It is illegal to throw computer equipment away rather than recycle it, and he said the biggest factor in his decision to use the service was time.
"To me, with the time I'd spend doing that, I could be serving more customers, which is a much better use of my time," said Jaffe, 64.
Haas picked up nine hard drives and a few laptops from him on Wednesday.
"It’s such a good feeling to have those objects out of here," he said. "I’m starting to think about what else I can get rid of."
In order to generate interest in the fledgling business, Haas is offering an introductory price of $20 for any size collection. As the business grows, she may change the pricing model based on the size of the items and the difficulty associated with recycling them.
Haas hopes to someday make Leave No Footprint her full-time job. But either way, it is her passion.
“My focus is to get as much waste as possible diverted from the landfills,” she said. “I really believe that you can recycle most of your trash if you just know how to do it.”