Visiting the Consulate General of Switzerland and learning about the New York City Sanitation

Today, we had the honor to visit the Consul General of Switzerland, surrounded by the skyscrapers of New York City. The morning was filled with nice impressions about their meaningful work, inspiring personalities like Rosina, Head of Economic Affairs and Communications, Ambassador Markus Börlin and Giorgo Pompilio Deputy Consul General and of course typical American breakfast consisting of orange juice and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Fitting into this years’ topic “From Waste to Wealth”, Joan Byrnes-Daly, Senior Manager Zero Waste Communications of the Bureau of Recycling and Sustainability, got invited to explain the Recycling System of New York City to us. Considering the demographics of the City with its 8.5 million citizens and the housing stock situation with multi-unit buildings, one can conclude how complex the recycling system must be. It was very insightful to learn how a city as diverse, complex and dense with a production of over 10’500 kg of trash every day aims to reach Zero Waste to landfills goal by 2030.

Unfortunately, the laziness of the New York Citizens when it comes to separating trash in multiple bins already starts to complicate to reach this goal. Joan Byrnes-Daly presented us some of their strategies like the support of community groups, safe disposal events and refashion programs in order to increase the awareness of recycling among the New York population. Last but not least, the morning ended with a group exercise where the connectUS participants had to share their thoughts on how to convince people to change their behavior to participate in organic waste collection. Most of the students’ ideas were based on prevalent systems in Switzerland, as for example paying for rubbish bags or paying fees for the wrong separation of trash. Summarizing all the thoughts, we can conclude that Switzerland is doing a progressive and good job in handling our waste.