Re-use, recycle, recover

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Top 10 things Upper East Siders, and New Yorkers, can do to reduce waste this year


  • Photo: Daniel X. O'Neil, via flickr

Upper East Siders create more waste than residents in most other city neighborhoods. And with a waste transfer station set to open next year at East 91st Street, it would behoove us to reduce the amount of waste we generate by recycling as much as possible, and prevent waste before it’s created. Thanks to internet technologies and several programs now available through the Department of Sanitation, reducing waste is easier than ever. Doing so can help us keep trucks off the streets, unsightly bags from piling up on sidewalks, and put still useful items into the hands of people who can use them — and out of landfills. Here are 10 suggestions for Upper East Siders to pursue this year.

1. BYO Reusables — Help to cut down on trash and litter by bringing your own coffee cup, water bottle and shopping bag. Take the NYC Zero Waste ‘BYO” Pledge:

2. Collect Food Waste — did you know that food and other ‘organics’ represents a third of the waste stream and degrade in landfils into a greenhouse gas that 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide? Learn how to start collecting food scraps right in your building and help to build healthy soil vis composting here:

3. Collect E-waste — It’s against the law in New York State to throw used electronics in the trash. Some local retailers collect ‘e-waste’ but it’s even more convenient to work with the city to get a free ‘e-cycle’ cage in your building to conveniently recycle cell phones, computers and more. Learn more here:

4. Give stuff a new home — Giving your wardrobe a lift? Moving? Check out all the places in New York City where you can donate gently used items.

While you’re at it, check out local thrift stores on the list — and discover possibilities in our neighborhood for vintage finds.

5. Free Stuff — Who doesn’t love getting free stuff? Simply repurpose a carton or other container for your laundry room or other public space, and help your neighbors start to “leave stuff” and “take stuff” right in your building.

6. Free Book Exchange — Even if it’s just one shelf in their building’s laundry room, more city buildings than you can imagine have a little free library. Start one in your building by repurposing a used bookcase, and discover how much a simple amenity like this can enhance your neighbors’ lives.

7. Swap Don’t Shop — Organize a clothes swap with friends. Host a swap event in your building’s lobby. Contact Grow NYC and learn how:

8. Repair broken products — With repair shops hard to find, learn how to fix items yourself using videos, or take them to various FixUp locations around Manhattan:

9. Junk mail — Save trees and paper by getting off junk mailing lists. Here’s how.

10. Sharing is Caring — Join and start borrowing and lending stuff to neighbors right in your building and block.

The group Upper West Side Recycling has information on its website at

Jacquelyn Ottman is a resident of the Upper East Side, a zero waste consultant and member of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board.

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