Your Office Building is Now Required to Recycle

Perhaps your office dutifully separates out recycling, but if your building is like most in New York City, everything gets tossed into the same bin at the end of the day. This changed on August 1, when the city unveiled the New Business Recycling Rules for commercial tenants and owners.

Developed as part of the city’s Zero by 30 initiative to eliminate waste going to landfills by 2030, the rules require businesses to set up and properly label three-bin recycling stations throughout their offices: one for paper; one for metals, glass, plastics and beverage cartons; and one for non-recyclable waste.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

While commercial buildings have been required to recycle for a couple of decades, they have been allowed to contract for “post-source” recycling. This means that a hauler pulls out recyclables offsite somewhere. Almost all owners have taken this route.

The trouble is, even with a diligent hauler, at least some recyclables will be contaminated during carting and become unusable. And who is checking how much sorting actually happens at that offsite location? 

The goal of the new rules is to separate recyclables at the source—and keep them separate all the way to the processing center. If building tenants learn to accurately sort their own trash on a small scale, the entire system will create less waste.

HOW DOES IT IMPACT ME?

If you’re a commercial tenant, you should have received a notification from your landlord outlining the details, but here are the basics: in addition to labeling your three bins, you will need to post signs in public dining, pantry and maintenance areas.

If you haven’t heard from your landlord yet, or if you are a commercial building owner who is surprised by this blog, here’s some info:

  • The city has provided step-by-step compliance instructions, that begin with updating your hauling contracts;
  • In large office buildings, management companies are responsible for training their janitorial staff to sort and drop-off waste;
  • They are also required to post standardized signage and notify tenants about proper compliance;
  • Businesses that don’t comply face fines.

IMPLEMENTATION CASE STUDY

Some management companies have been preparing for the new rules well in advance. For instance, SL Green Realty Corporation (SLG) worked with the 32BJ Training Fund to train their cleaners, who work in office buildings across Manhattan, about the new rules so that they will be in compliance.

Speaking about the training, Liz Majkowski, Senior Vice President of Operations and Director of Sustainability for SL Green, said, “The challenge surrounding NYC’s new recycling laws is driving behavior change across all stakeholders.” For Phase one, SL Green collaborated with the 32BJ Training Fund to streamline onsite trainings for cleaning staff, and together they successfully trained over 500 employees.

Phase two of the partnership targeted tenants, and according to Majkowski, in three months they were able to train employees from 800 companies, across 26 properties.

“Through stakeholder education and engagement, SLG effectively aligned our operational strategy with Mayor de Blasio’s Zero Waste goal,” said Majkowski.

To find out more about the new commercial recycling rules, download the city’s official flyer and visit the Department of Sanitation Zero Waste webpage on Recycling for Businesses. For more information about the 32BJ Training Fund training for cleaners, call (212) 539-2811. 

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SL Green’s Managers participate in a dry run of the 32BJ Training Fund Recycling training for Cleaners. Photo courtesy of 32BJ.

SL Green’s Cleaners enjoying the 32BJ Training Fund Recycling Training. Photo courtesy of 32BJ.

About the author

Linda Nelson
Linda Nelson is Director of the 32BJ Training Fund.