New York City launches solar-powered, public space recycling effort

Dan McCue Tuesday, 19 November 2013


They look, quite frankly, like ordinary streetside recycling bins, but an initiative being expanded in New York City's Times Square, represents a significant leap in deploying solar power to improve the quality of life in one of the world's premiere cities.

New York City launches solar-powered, public space recycling effort

The Times Square Alliance, a coalition of city government and local businesses founded to improve and promote midtown Manhattan, is ramping up the number of Big Belly solar-powered waste and recycling stations in use in the high-profile commercial district.

The pilot program launched in March 2013 with just 30 stations and was funded by a $250,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation. This past week, the number of receptacles was increased to 46.

“When we launched this initiative in March, we had one central question: could pedestrians in Times Square take the lead in making recycling a reality in New York’s public spaces?" said Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance.  

"The answer is yes: we put out the cans and the people have used them, recycling a quarter of the waste deposited here and proving that there’s always a chance to pick up a good habit, especially in Times Square,” Tompkins said.

The Alliance says it is expanding the program because the pilot was a astounding success, significantly increasing the capture of recyclable waste in Times Square, while cutting back on the frequency of waste collections by the Times Square Alliance’s sanitation team.

This change has freed up the team to spend more time on other efforts to maintain quality of life in the district, such as sweeping streets and bussing tables in the plaza.

Data is collected from the stations, which are equipped with monitoring systems to measure fullness and frequency of servicing, and then transferred via WiFi to Big Belly’s customer website where operators can access reports on collection and efficiency.  

Key findings since the pilot program include:

  • The stations have collected 18 tons of bottles and cans and 12 tons of paper as recyclables;
  • Combined, this amounts to 25 percent of the Times Square waste stream being diverted to recycling;
  • The stations were serviced by Times Square sanitation workers on average 4.2 times per week compared to regular trash cans which had been serviced 4 times per day.
  • The stations were emptied with an 84 percent efficiency rating. A station is emptied efficiently when it is determined to be half or completely full.
  • The most-used stations by volume were located on Duffy Square at 46th Street and Broadway.

"New York is the world's city. Having comprehensive recycling infrastructure in Times Square demonstrates to the world how important recycling is to us here in NYC," said Ron Gonen, Deputy Commissioner of Sanitation, Recycling and Sustainability, NYC Department of Sanitation.

The expansion of the program was announced Friday, 15 November, during the city's observance of the sixteenth annual America Recycles Day.

 Organized by Keep America Beautiful, America Recycles Day is a community-driven awareness event dedicated to promoting and celebrating environmental education, citizenship and action.

The expansion of the Big Belly program also supports outgoing New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s “Recycle Everything” campaign to bring the City’s recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017.

The campaign focuses on food waste, electronic, textile and rigid plastic recycling.

Photo caption: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, Big Belly CEO Jim Norrod and Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins, celebrate the largest public space recycling initiative in New York City. 

For additional information:

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