FAQs - Waste management and recycling at UNHQ

Commitment

 

The Office of Central Support Services is committed to manage UNHQ waste responsibly and contribute to the SDG goals, particularly target 12.5: By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse”To this end, we require UNHQ waste to be processed locally and have achieved zero-waste-to-landfill! We currently recycle approximately 40% of the waste that leaves our facilities, the rest goes to a local state of the art Waste to Energy facility. We continuously look at improving our operation, through regular waste audits and a partnership with Columbia University Earth Engineering Center.

With your help, we want to reduce the total amount of waste UNHQ generates and increase the recycling rate of what cannot, ultimately, be reduced or re-used. Everyone’s participation is essential to the success of UNHQ waste management programme and contribution to the SGDs!

 

Questions? 

 

We have compiled a list of commonly asked questions. If you cannot find your answers here, send your questions and suggestions to GreeningUNHQ@un.org. We will update the list regularly.

  1. How can I help?
  2. Why is it important to separate my trash? Is it not sorted off-site?
  3. What and where can I recycle within my office space: at my desk, by the photocopy machines, at the pantry?
  4. What and where can I recycle at the Conference and General Assembly buildings and where?
  5. How do I dispose of paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass, office supplies and food waste?
  6. How do we properly dispose of confidential documents?
  7. My office is not in the UNHQ Secretariat, are the procedures different?
  8. What is being done to reduce waste at the cafeteria/cafes locations?
  9. How can I dispose of my waste at the cafeteria and café locations?
 

 

Q1: How can I help?

 

A1: You can:

  • Ensure you understand what and how to recycle in your building
  • Observe the recycling and waste bin signs in the buildings you visit
  • Encourage your colleagues to recycle
  • Contact FMS Helpdesk (fms@un.org) if you do not have the correct bins for your building, floor or workstation 
 

 

Q2: Why is it important to separate my trash? Is it not sorted off-site?

 

A2: UNHQ waste removal contractor does sort the waste leaving our buildings. However, it is much harder to recover recyclables from food-contaminated waste and separation of paper is a New York City municipal requirement for office buildings in New York City municipality. By correctly sorting your trash before disposal, you help us recycle more, recover valuable material, reduce pollution, and save money!

 

 

Q3: What and where can I recycle within my office space?    

 

Q3.1: At my desk, in the blue bins?

A3.1: You can only recycle paper and cardboard, including colored paper, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, books, clean food tray, folder (including colored ones and those with metal tabs). Attached staples and paper clips do not need to be removed. Anything else will contaminate the bin, which will have to be treated as regular trash! 

DOs (Place these items in your recycling bin) DON'Ts (Do not please these in the recycling bins)
  • Paper, including colored paper and cardboard
  • Newspaper/ magazines/ catalogues/ books
  • Folders including colored ones and with metal tabs
  • Napkins, tissue, food wrappers, etc.
  • Food or food-contaminated items
  • Plastic binders, glass, plastic or metal items
 

Q3.2: By the photocopiers, in the large blue bins?

A3.2: Larger blue bins usually placed near copy areas are for mixed paper or broken-down cardboard items that do not fit into the small blue bin. Please take care to remove Styrofoam and/or plastic packaging and dispose of them in the regular trash receptacle (gray bin). 

 

Q3.3: In the pantry/kitchenette?

A3.3: Specially marked commingled recycling bins are available to recycle (clean) paper, glass, plastic and metal items. Aluminum containers and other metal items go in the receptacle labelled for glass and plastic. Please make sure that bottles and cans are empty and containers are rinsed clean before placing them in the recycling bin! Otherwise, the entire bin will be contaminated and end up in the regular trash. 

 
 

 

Q4: What can I recycle at the Conference and General Assembly buildings and where?

 

A4: Specially marked commingled recycling bins are available in common areas of the Conference and General Assembly buildings to recycle (clean) paper, glass, plastic and metal items. Please make sure that bottles and cans are empty and containers are wiped clean before placing them in the recycling bin! Otherwise, the entire bin will be contaminated and end up in the regular trash. 

 

 

Q5: How do I properly dispose of paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass, office supplies, food waste?

 

Q5.1: Paper?

A5.1: Office buildings in New York City municipality are required to separate paper from the regular waste before it is collected. You can help by using the small blue bins by your desk or the large blue bins by the photocopiers. Consider reducing the amount of documents you print and printing on both sides whenever possible. 

 

Q5.2: Cardboard boxes and/or larger cardboard pieces?

A5.2: Separate larger cardboard items that do not fit into your blue desk bin (taking care to remove Styrofoam and/or plastic packaging and disposing of them in the regular trash gray bins) and place them in the large blue bins by the photocopiers or next to it if it does not fit.

 

Q5.3: Office supplies such as manila envelopes and hanging file folders?

A5.3: Paper folders, if they cannot be reused, can go to the blue bins. Manila envelopes should be bundled up and sent to your respective Messenger Mail stations for proper routing and disposal. Paper clips, bulldog clips and binders should be re-used or returned to the office supply cabinet.

 

Q5.4: Glass, metal, and plastics?

A5.4: Glass and plastic bottles, aluminum cans, recyclable containers and similar items may be placed in specially marked commingled recycling bins located in the kitchenettes in office areas. Bins are also located in common areas of the Conference and General Assembly buildings. Make sure all items are empty, wiped or rinsed clean and consider using a cup and re-usable bottle whenever possible! For the Cafeteria and Cafes location, check Question 9.

 

Q5.5: Food waste?

A5.5: Food waste NEEDS to be disposed of in the regular trash and, in the interest of hygiene and pest control, should be put in the regular trash bins at the pantries/kitchenettes. It is extremely important that food and beverage do not contaminate recycling bins as the entire bin would have to be treated as regular trash for sanitary reasons. For the Cafeteria and Cafes location, please refer to Question 9.

 

 

Q6: How do we properly dispose of confidential documents?

 

A6: Safe and Secure Disposal (SSD) and Recycling of obsolete documents, at all levels (i.e. decommissioned documents), is available and should be used when truly needed as the costs to the Organization, in both time and money, are significantly higher than disposal of regular paper. The following are the steps for SSD service:

  • Place a work order with the FMS Helpdesk (fms@un.org) with your full name, location and specify that it is Safe and Secure Disposal you require.
  • Please continue to dispose of your regular waste/non confidential paper recyclables in your desk blue bin or large blue bins by the photocopiers, taking care not to dispose of non-paper items in these, such as binders, CD’s and magnetic tapes.
  • A recycling programme representative will bring the SSD bins to your location.
  • The SSD bins are collected and then taken to a designated area for later destruction.
  • Certificates of Destruction can be provided if request is made when work order is placed.
 

 

Q7: My office is not in the UNHQ Secretariat, are the procedures different? 

 

A7: While generally consistent, the procedures for recycling do vary from building to building. Below is a summary for common items:

Item Secretariat, UNITAR, FF, ALBANO, Innovation, DN DC1, DC2 UNFCU, Falchi
Non-recyclable trash In trash receptacle (usually grey) under desk* In common area, tall black receptacles In trash receptacle
Paper In blue paper receptacle under desk In paper receptable under desk In paper receptacle under desk
Plastic, metals, glass In common area recycle container (kitchenette) In marked tall green bins in common areas In trash receptacle**
 * 13th, 18th & 19th Floors of the Secretariat Building use common area receptacles for trash.
** Separation of recyclables is performed off-site by landlord’s trash vendor
 

 

Q8: What is being done to reduce waste at the cafeteria/cafes locations?

 

Q8.1: Why is the cafeteria not offering reusable dinnerware, flatware and cutlery?

A8.1: With the closure of the previous main cafeteria for security reasons and the need to continue to provide food services, there are currently eight (8) café locations spread in 5 different buildings throughout the UNHQ complex. Unfortunately, none of these locations, except for the Delegates Dining Room, have the infrastructure for installation of dishwashers to properly clean dining dishes and utensils.

The cafeteria operation is researching more sustainable and cost effective disposable options but you can help reduce waste by bringing your own cutlery, opting for the biodegradable paper bowl or bringing your own light weight lunch box.

 

Q8.2: Why does the cafeteria offer plastic and aluminum containers instead of offering only paper ones?

A8.2: The cafeteria is studying the possibility to substitute plastic and aluminum containers for take-out paper containers but they are significantly more expensive and pricing increases would need to be implemented to pay for them. Consider using the available paper bowls when eating at the cafeteria itself instead of the plastic and aluminum containers.

 

Q8.3: Is it possible to bring my own mug to refill it at the cafeteria?

A8.3: Yes, it is and you would receive a 5% discount for coffee when sing it!

 

Q8.4: Is it possible to bring my own food container and fill it with the food from the cafeteria?

A8.4: It is possible but CulinArt will not be able to separate the container’s weight and will charge the total weight of food and container. Thus, consider bringing a light lunch box that could go directly on the scale with your food. It is important to emphasize, however, that the cafeteria operator does not recommend taking the food home at the end of the day.

 

Q8.5: Can I ask for less packaging when I order something to go at the cafes?

A: Yes. CulinArt is trying to reduce the packaging of sandwiches and other take-out items at the cafés, using biodegradable alternatives when possible. You can help by opting out of a container or bag.

 

Q8.6: Can overall packaging be reduced? Why are the apples sold at the cafes wrapped in plastic wrap for example?

A8.6: CulinArt is trying to reduce packaging but has to follow applicable health codes for our safety, which requires that items that may be handled by several people, such as fruits, to be wrapped individually.

 

Q8.7: Are there any initiatives promoted by the cafeteria to reduce food waste?

A8.7: CulinArt is extremely conscious of reducing food waste and has done so by cooking when needed, monitoring food waste at the end of each day, and adjusting its offering as a result as this affects the company’s profitability.

 

Q8.8: What happens with the fried oil used in the kitchen?

A8.8: The fried oil is collected and recycled to make diesel fuel by a third party vendor.

 

 

Q9: How can I dispose of my waste at the cafeteria and café locations?

 

Q9.1: How is the waste separated at the cafeteria and cafés?

A9.1: The waste separation has been simplified into two different groups: dry waste and wet waste.

 

Q9.2: Why does UNHQ only separate their waste in two categories at the cafeteria?

A9.2: It is intended to simplify the separation of the waste at all food locations as it became obvious that most people were not discarding their waste in the correct way, impairing the efficiency of recycling. One of the biggest issues was the contamination of recyclables by food and liquids. If wet waste and dry waste are correctly separated, UNHQ will be able to recover a higher percentage of recyclable items.

 

Q9.3: What can I put in the "dry waste" bin?

A9.3: Dry waste includes fully empty plastic, glass or aluminum drink containers; wiped off or rinsed out aluminum or plastic food containers; wiped plastic cutlery; clean napkins and coffee sleeves.

 

Q9.4: What can I put in the “wet waste” bin?

A9.4: Wet wastes include food; liquids; containers or utensils soiled by food or liquids; unfinished drink containers; soiled napkins or paper towels. You can help reduce your impact on the environment by choosing biodegradable paper options or by wiping off clean your food container and placing it in the “dry waste” bin where it can more easily be recycled.

 

Q9.5: Can I throw a soiled food container in the "dry waste" bin?

A9.5: No, unless it is emptied first and wiped off with a napkin, which we strongly encourage you to do so it can be recycled. Otherwise it can contaminate the entire bag of dry waste, which will have to be treated as regular trash.

 

Q9.6: Can I throw a half empty beverage container in the "dry waste" bin?

A9.6: No, a can or bottle that still has liquid in it should be emptied first before being placed in the dry waste or recyclable bin. Otherwise, it can contaminate the entire bag of recyclables. If you have a pantry, give it a rinse!

 

Q9.7: What happens if I throw a soiled container in the "dry waste" bin?

A9.7: If the recyclable material is mixed with food, it will be treated as mixed/wet trash. It will be much harder, for our waste disposal contractor, to recycle it and it may end up being incinerated to generate energy instead of recycled, a less desirable outcome.

 

Q9.8: Is everything in the "dry waste" bin recyclable?

A9.8: No, not everything in the dry bin is recyclable but the majority of it is and it is easier to recover recyclable materials when they are not mixed with wet ones.

 

Q9.9: Are organic waste composted?

A9.9: Not at this time. A study by Columbia University concluded that on-site composting was not a viable option. We are facing logistical constraints with off-site composting but are exploring the possibility of being included in NY City organic waste pick up route for a portion of the food waste. A small portion of the kitchen scraps will also be composted by the UN Food Garden. 

 

Q9.10: If organic waste is not composted, why is it better to use biodegradable paper containers instead of plastic or aluminum food containers?

A9.10: Composting would be optimal but using biodegradable paper containers is still more sustainable than using plastic or aluminum ones. Remember that plastic never fully decompose and requires a lot of resources when recycled and re-purposed.