Piloting a New Way to Recycle at Brownsville Houses

Piloting a New Way to Recycle at Brownsville Houses

Brigitte Vicenty gets excited when she sees bags full of recyclables collected outside the Brownsville Houses Community Center, because her dream of increasing recycling participation at NYCHA and citywide is coming true.

Ms. Vicenty is a Mott Haven Houses resident and the Recycling Coordinator for Mothers on the Move, a nonprofit based in the South Bronx that works to improve housing, environmental, and other conditions in the community.

Brownsville residents know her as the woman behind the Door-to Door Recycling Pilot, which provides pick-up of residents’ recyclables from their apartments. The pilot began in July, and as of November 1, collected 5,000 pounds of recyclables.

The idea for the project came to her when she was brainstorming ways to get people to recycle. “I used to have a contract with NYCHA delivering The NYCHA Journal to residents door-to-door. I was thinking, what if we made recycling convenient and what if we collected recyclables door-to-door, floor-to-floor? Who doesn’t want that kind of service?”

The pilot received $20,000 to launch as a winner of the NYCx Co-Lab Challenge: Zero Waste in Shared Space, which called for the best ideas to reduce litter and incorrect garbage disposal, increase resident participation in recycling, and promote waste-free common spaces at Brownsville Houses. The challenge was run by NYCHA, the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the NYC Department of Sanitation, and the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

For the Brownsville pilot, residents leave their recyclables in color-coded green or blue bags outside their doors ahead of collection day on Thursday. Corps Members from Green City Force (GCF), a training and education program for young NYCHA residents, stop at Brownsville’s 27 buildings to collect and weigh recyclables from each apartment participating in the pilot.

GCF Corps Member Donnell Moses of Pink Houses said: “This pilot is important because even though we’re just recycling, we’re making the world a better place. Most plastics people use on a daily basis are recyclable, so if you get everybody used to recycling, it’ll become second nature, and we won’t have to worry about things being wasted.”

After collection, GCF members input data, including the weight of recyclables and which apartments participated. At the end of the month, residents in the building with the most recyclables receive gift cards, and all residents receive updates in a newsletter developed by NYCx Co-Lab and GCF to keep residents excited about their progress.

GCF Corps Member Lisa Kelly of King Towers said, “I feel like we’re actually making a difference and it helps provides jobs as well; if we could get this in all the NYCHA buildings, that would be my dream.”

Expanding the pilot NYCHA-wide is Ms. Vicenty’s ultimate goal. She has meetings with funders to keep the pilot going for as long as possible and is continuing to raise money through the Ideas Marketplace crowdfunding platform from the Fund for Public Housing, a non-profit that raises funds for the well-being of NYCHA residents and their communities.


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