High-tech recycling bin goes bust

The Renew recycling bin, the first of its kind in New York, is already malfunctioning a month after its installation. Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Bowling Green had the honor of receiving the nation’s first high-tech recycling bin last month, which is equipped with a bomb-proof exterior and two liquid crystal display (L.C.D.) screens streaming media content.

The problem is, the bin may already be falling apart at the seams.

On Tues., July 10, both screens of the Renew recycling bin, which is located at Water and Whitehall Streets, were out of service. A worker for J.M. Ornstein, the bin’s owner, was busy tinkering with the machine’s electrical wiring but was unable to reactivate the power.

When asked if he could figure out what the problem was, the employee, Steve Kohn, simply said, “No.”

Along with faulty mechanics, the bin itself also seems to be in poor shape. When Kohn was reinstalling the bin’s front panel after failing to restart the screens, he placed several pieces of black duct tape over the sides.

Asked about the need for the tape, Kohn explained that the bottom edge of the panel had begun to pull away from the frame of the bin.

“We’re going to have it functioning as soon as possible,” said Jason Ornstein, president of J.M. Ornstein. “It’s also our commitment to present this in a more picturesque way, so the front panel is going to be re-soldered.”

The bin, placed on June 7, is operated by the Downtown Alliance, which partnered with Ornstein to launch the initiative. Renew bins are manufactured by the British company Media Metrica, which has installed more than 50 bins in London’s financial district since the start of 2012. The Downtown bin only takes paper products, but Media Metrica also produces bins for other recyclable materials.

Joseph Timpone, senior vice president of operations at the Downtown Alliance, said that the failure of the screens was likely the outcome of a blown fuse, according to information given to him by Media Metrica.

Regardless of the current difficulties, Ornstein explained that he hopes to place 200 to 300 Renew bins throughout New York City within the coming year, and that he’s planning to reach out to the City Council and various city agencies in order to meet that goal.

Timpone was skeptical about that figure, saying that he believes 25 to 50 bins is a more realistic goal for the next year, but added that he remains optimistic about the project.

“People were curious about it at first,” he said, “but I think they’ll embrace it, because it gives them a chance to become more involved in recycling while also gaining information [from the bin’s screens].”

He also said that, on average, the bin is currently being filled to about 50 percent capacity.

Renew bins cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce — depending on how many are manufactured at a time — but, according to Ornstein, they’ll be provided at no cost to the respective communities around the city. Media Metrica makes a profit from the Renew program by gaining corporate sponsors, which supply the media content for the bins’ screens.

Ornstein explained that, in addition to news and entertainment media, the Downtown bin’s two screens will eventually be used to broadcast subway information provided by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, as well as any emergency alerts that come from the New York Police Department.

But for now — once power is restored to the bin — its screens will primarily feature a Downtown Alliance-sponsored map of Lower Manhattan, according to Timpone.

“It’s a small operation so far, and it’s unfortunate that we’re having this electrical trouble right now,” said Ornstein. “But it’s still a pretty unique project.”

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2 Responses to High-tech recycling bin goes bust

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