The Starrett-Lehigh building is one of Manhattan’s largest and premier landmark properties with a history of attracting world-class creative companies and elite brands. If you were to walk through the 2.3 million square foot building today you would see their A-list collection of tenants from internationally renowned designers, to multimedia agencies, to upcoming photographers and artists. The open layout and expansive raw office space is ideal for the creative community to thrive. The building is an integral part of the West Chelsea landscape and we are proud to have worked with them for so many years.
The buildings management company RXR Reality is ahead of the curve when it comes to their commitment to sustainability. It is the only commercial building in NYC that is participating in the Zero Waste Challenge on a building wide scale. Not only have they worked with us to successfully overhaul their recycling program, they have announced their ambitious goal of composting 100% of all organic material in their building by the end of 2016.
But things at the Starrett-Lehigh building weren’t always so environmentally friendly.
A Messy Past
In 1994 our executive account manager Pete Pirrello, began working with the Starrett-Lehigh building under a different carting company (Action wasn’t established until 1999). At the time, multiple carting companies serviced the building and as a result there was no comprehensive waste system in place. Tenants would simply place their waste in ½ yard dumpsters that were located on every floor in the truck bay, which were very visible in such an open layout building. The waste would remained there until garbage pickup after midnight.
This resulted in the dumpsters overflowing with bags of waste. Pete recalls the horrible state of the truck bays “There were piles of trash everywhere! Bags built up in the corners, even as high as the bay ceiling.” As you can imagine this made for an unappealing environment for the buildings tenants, which is home to high end brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. This disheveled state of waste removal went on for years.
Eventually Pete, who was now a part of the Action team, proposed the plan to become the central carting company for the building and in return would properly manage the waste removal of the building and get rid of the unsightly overflowing dumpsters.
Action in Action
Action was then solely responsible for disposing of the waste in the building. After hours our team would go floor to floor collecting the waste from the dumpsters, which would take up to 4 hours a night. The team would then spend almost 2 hours sorting the mixed waste to try and extract the recyclable materials.
Although Action did spend time educating the building management and tenants on the proper ways to recycle, it was still not enough. Wet waste was mixed with recyclable materials, which caused them to become contaminated. Even with the tedious routine of sorting by hand, low volumes of recyclable materials were collected from their waste stream.
This went on from 2004 until 2011, when RXR Reality purchased the building.
After RXR Realty purchased the property, it became a major goal of the building to devise an efficient and effective recycling plan. Operations Manager Mitchell Grant, championed this initiative by enforcing stricter recycling policies for tenants. Action also worked with the buildings janitorial service, ABM Janitorial, to restructure how trash was collected from each level.
No longer would we spend time collecting the waste from each floor of the building. Instead the waste would be brought to one central location, the loading dock. Here the waste would be collected and sorted for recyclable materials. The whole recycling plan took almost a full year to complete.
Commitment to Sustainability
Today the buildings truck bays are waste free and now serve as a common area space for the tenants with stadium style seating.
We have come a long way from the trash in the truck bay days and are not stopping our sustainable partnership now. RXR has been fully committed to creating a fully sustainably building at the Starrett-Lehigh property. They currently produce about 700 tons of waste per year but of that we recycle 454 tons and divert 35.6% from the landfill.
We are proud to have worked with them for so long and will continue to help them improve upon their recycling program to reach their zero waste goal.
Our next joint venture will be composting. We will work with their team of vendors to divert the building composted waste out the building waste stream and diverted it to their new roof top edible garden, and golf course in Brooklyn, and to our composting facility.