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Anna R Lee

How To

By Amanda Stone

When you sign up to volunteer for the Go Green Expo, you may not quite know what to expect. You probably imagine giving directions, selling tickets, handing out eco-friendly pamphlets, setting up booths, or just getting to see the exhibits and maybe learning a little something about a sustainable future. I had no idea what I was getting into myself. Randomly assigned to work with Recyclaholics, I spent the day in plastic gloves toting biodegradable “BioBags,” up to my elbows in trash.

The company’s mission is to be a leader in zero-waste and sustainable solutions for packaging and food services. Recyclaholics incorporates sustainability and social responsibility in all its policies, practices, and products. Its “triple bottom line” business plan emphasizes the three P’s: people, planet, and profits. It aimed to make Go Green Expo a “zero-waste” event.

Strategically placed throughout the three floors of the Hilton Hotel were four bin stations, each labeled "Waste," "Glass Plastic & Cans," "Paper & Cardboard," or "Compostable." It was our job to circulate amongst the stations, make sure that people deposited their trash correctly to cut down on sorting later, check in with exhibitors with special waste needs (particularly those serving food and drink), and replace BioBags if the cans were getting full. Sounds simple, right? Not quite. We were given a brief tutorial on what materials to look out for. For example, one exhibitor was giving out food samples in compostable cups, but most people tossed them in the Waste bin without a second thought. New York isn’t exactly a compost-friendly city, so many remain unaware of its tremendous environmental benefit.

I was continually surprised by how much compostable or recyclable material wound up in the Waste bin. Even at an event so targeted to the environmentally conscious, many were still oblivious of their habits. And while it was encouraging to see many vendors trying to separate the waste from their own booths, a few felt they “couldn’t control other people’s waste” or “didn’t have the resources.” When it comes down to it, they just weren’t making the effort.

While I was happy that evening (when I finally hopped in the shower), I had learned more than I bargained for. Along with knowledge of the different recyclable materials, I gained a heightened awareness of my own behavior. If all of us on the planet spent even one day of our lives sorting trash, we might think twice before dumping that non recyclable coffee cup.

Some quick facts you may not know about recycling in New York City:

1) Every building in the city is required by law to recycle — including every residence, city agency, school, institution, and business.

2) Unsure what is recyclable? For a full list visit,

3) The Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence supports the Verizon Wireless Hopeline Program, which refurbishes and recycles donated cell phones to benefit local survivors of domestic violence. Also, all wireless telephone service providers that sell cell phones in the State of New York must accept them for reuse or recycling from any person at no cost.

4) Check out to learn how to start composting your fall leaves or organic waste at home with minimal effort – no matter how small your space.

5) You can recycle unwanted computers, monitors, and printers through one of many retailer or manufacturer-sponsored programs – or through recycling vendors. A list is available on as well.

Effective summer 2012, the New York City Plastic Carryout Bag Recycling Law will require any retail or wholesale establishment that provides plastic carryout bag to establish an in-store recycling program if it has over 5,000 square feet of retail space or five or more stores in the city. Stores will have collection bins for all types of plastic film – including shopping, dry-cleaning, and newspaper bags. Retailers must also stock reusable bags for consumers to purchase.

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