New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

GREEN IDEAS

HOW NYC CO-OPS/CONDOS SAVE ENERGY

Organics Recycling's Newest Convert

Bill Morris in Green Ideas

Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan

Brown Bin II

Deborah Brozina drops her organic waste in the brown bin (photo by Danielle Finkelstein)

When the massive Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village apartment complexes on the East Side of Manhattan joined the city’s organics recycling program last December – with curbside pickup three times a weekDeborah Brozina was delighted but far from thunderstruck.

That’s because Brozina, a filmmaker, has lived in Stuyvesant Town since 1992, and she has been recycling her organic waste nearly as long. She started by taking her food scraps – stored in a plastic bin in her freezer – to the organics recycling drop-off at the Union Square Greenmarket once a week. Then, in 2015, her weekly half-mile trip was cut considerably when organics recycling came to the weekend farmers’ market on the Stuyvesant Town oval.

Now that her complex has signed on with the city’s expanding curbside collection of organic waste, Brozina’s life is even simpler. She still stores her food scraps in her freezer, forgoing the new generation of small countertop bins that allow the organic matter to dry out, thus reducing odors. “My countertop space is too precious,” she explains. When her container gets full, she simply removes it from the freezer, takes the elevator down to the recycling room in the basement, and empties the container into the brown bin. Each bin originally came equipped with a latch, designed to keep the lid sealed tight and keep rodents out. But when users kept failing to close the lids properly – to the loud dismay of residents who opposed the program – Rei Moya, the complexes’ director of environmental services, had his staff retrofit all 330 bins with magnets, ensuring that they always close snugly. No odors, no vermin, no complaints. 

“There’s always resistance to change in this place – we’re stubborn people,” says Brozina, referring to the widespread initial opposition to the program, which was largely driven by fears that the bins would emit odors and attract rats. “But once people see how much it reduces their waste, they’re more willing to do it. Several of my neighbors are really committed to it. Look, there’s no reason for a banana peel to be inside a plastic bag going to a landfill. As a descendant of refugees, waste is anathema to me.” 

Her advice to doubters? “Try it, you’ll like it,” Brozina says. “There’s a low cost to trying it. You don’t have to invest in anything. Experiment. There’s a low threshold to entry.” 

And it’s making a big difference. According to Moya’s calculations, about 15 percent of the 27,000 residents at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are now participating in the organics recycling program, and the complex is diverting an average of 10,000 pounds of waste a week from landfills. 

Want to sign your building up for curbside organics collection? Watch this video.

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