Environmental Justice & Sustainability

Forcing local bagel shop to recycle

To pay for my English classes at Hunter, I work part time at a bagel store on Long Island. However, this isn’t your ordinary bagel store, it’s an absolute madhouse. Serving several hundred customers on weekends, we go through our fair share of milk cartons, plastic and paper cups, paper plates and bags, etc. Not to mention bottles of snapple, soda, ginger ale, water, orange juice and many many more assortment of drinks. To my horror, I recently found out my boss doesn’t recycle. All that paper, plastic and glass goes straight into the trash, I’m talking hundreds of recyclable material. So, I recently convinced my boss to start recycling and offered to set up all the separate bins myself. Starting last week, I set up separate labeled trash bins and bags for cartons/ plastic, glass and paper. Now my coworkers and the customers that eat in, can properly discard items that can be recycled. These separate trash bins are set aside to be collected by recycling instead of thrown into the big dumpster in the back of the store.

The first weekend I implemented this new system of recycling, I had six large trash bags filled with recyclable material separated and labeled. They were picked up the next morning and sent off to serve a better purpose than sitting in some dump where they wouldn’t disintegrate for probably an eternity.

Environmental justice to me is simply taking an easy extra step to make sure something as simple as an empty carton of milk or a plastic bottle is recycled instead of thrown in the garbage. According to “Letters: Seeing benefits of recycling on LI”, Long Islanders only recycle 30% of their waste, which could easily be a larger number considering how often people use recyclable materials. Also, according to this article recycling may even save taxpayers money. Newsday writes, “Recycling costs money, but reducing the waste stream saves money.” In addition they write, “recycling saving about $100 per ton compared with disposal” which proves there’s no real downside to recycling and being environmentally conscious.

I think this new system of recycling at my job will be easy to maintain now that everyone is getting the hang of where to properly put things. My other coworkers were even excited to participate being that they thought it was wrong to not recycle so much of the garbage. I think my boss even feels better about himself as well. 

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5 thoughts on “Forcing local bagel shop to recycle

  1. Hey, that’s an amazing thing that you’re doing that not only involves yourself, but your community as well! I have actually noticed after reading this that a lot of stores, not only in Long Island, but a majority of stores I’ve been to actually do not recycle. It really is a shame that recycling isn’t something universal among stores. Perhaps if there’s some sort of incentive for recycling, but as I’ve read on your post, the most that business owners are able to get is that “there is no down side to recycling,” or at the very least I’m not really aware of any program or such that provides such incentives, and it seems many business owners are also. It really is a shame, but hopefully more people such as yourself will help create a better future!

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  2. I really love this idea. I think it’s commendable to extend this assignment to your workplace where the effects would be so far reaching. I would think it would benefit the customers to know that the bagel shop now recycles, maybe even advertising how much recyclable trash you’ve saved from the landfills so far. Informing your customers of the recycling program may lead to more positive feelings toward the establishment. Furthermore, the customers may be inspired to do the same at home

    I think it’s also poignant that you noted that your boss has a better sense of self since the recycling program started. Serving one’s environment in this relatively easy way can lead to a quick dose of self-satisfaction.

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  3. I completely agree with you. That is honestly material that can become something else. Your plate can become a cup or a bottle and serve another purpose instead of being thrown out and destroying the planet. I would like to add that in addition to us throwing out reusable or recyclable material, we also throw out food a lot when honestly it could easily be saved and eaten later on. The amount of energy that goes into creating that food item and shipping it and packaging it is essentially put to waste when you throw it out because you felt full and couldn’t finish it. We need to be conscious of how lucky we are that we can look at material in this way when there are countries that cannot have what we have in the first place.

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  4. The first thing that drew me into this post was that you are from Long Island and work at one of the many amazing bagel shops in this area. Is there anything better than a toasted semame bagel with veggie cream cheese? On a more serious note, I really like this post because it’s one thing to try to be environmentally conscientious as an individual, but to take it to a bigger scale and involve your coworkers and the high volume of a bagel place is really bold. Taking action and making others take action as well makes you a leader, and some people perhaps wouldn’t want to use their voice to make a bigger change. This inspires me to see what I can do at my job to make us more environmentally friendly and I thank you.

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