ABNY grant facilitates study of waste on commercial streets in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn and Chinatown, Manhattan

The Center for Zero Waste Design is currently undertaking a project examining waste in commercial areas in two neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York City. Through grant funding from the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), CfZWD is working alongside the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) and Welcome to Chinatown (WTC) to design solutions to the proliferation of waste on the street along Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn and in Chinatown in lower Manhattan.

The project in Brooklyn was completed in January 2023 and a summary of work and recommendations is outlined below. The project in Chinatown is due to be completed in Spring 2023.

A salsa social on the Vanderbilt Avenue Open Street. Image: PHNDC

At weekends during the summer months, Vanderbilt Avenue operates as a pedestrianized “Open Street”, facilitating social gathering in the street and outside the many restaurants, cafes, bars and retailers operating the length of Vanderbilt Avenue. This increased pedestrian traffic and use of the street as a communal space does not align with the current waste management arrangements, which place residential and commercial waste on the sidewalk. Trash and recycling bags on the sidewalk are visually unappealing, obstruct access, cause increased litter and attract rats.

Commercial waste on Vanderbilt Avenue.

To determine the scale of the problem and opportunities for improvement, CfZWD undertook a variety of activities including:

  • Attitudinal surveys of local residents, business operators and visitors;
  • Visual surveys of the streetscape at peak times for residential, commercial and litter basket waste
  • Estimates of quantities of each waste stream
  • A characterization study of litter basket waste

The project activities threw up a number of findings. Businesses largely set out waste in bags and recycling participation is mixed; levels of trash on the Open Street were noticeable to visitors and residents. Residents are in favor of organic waste collections; there were also calls for containerization, removing trash from the sidewalk, and installing public recycling bins.

Street litter bins were found to contain a large proportion of drinks cups and takeout containers, with a similar proportion of recyclable containers. During Open Street hours street bins were sometimes surrounded by trash bags between collections.

Residential waste quantities were estimated to be suitable for a containerization project at the current collection schedule.

Recommendations included the establishment of a Zero Waste Business program; encouraging businesses to use reusable container programs for coffee cups and takeout containers; advocacy to encourage the city to containerize residential waste; investigation of a shared waste contract for businesses once the city’s Commercial Waste Zones are implemented; segregation of recyclables in temporary street waste bins; and the establishment of a communal organic waste collection program for residents.

For more detail on the recommendations, see the summary post on our Put Waste to Work website.