One of the biggest source of angst for urban greenies? The do-I-recycle-this problem.
Confronted with an odd item whose recyclability is questioned, a responsible citizen will do one of three things:
- Err on the side of sending less to the landfill, and put it in the recycling
- Err on the side of not messing up the recycling process, and put it in the trash
- Know, either from a quick look up on her phone/laptop, or from memorization, where it goes, and treat it appropriately
Do you do the third option? I know I don’t. And I hardly feel guilty about it. I mean, come on, the system is too damn complicated. But I’m going to try to break it down a bit.
This guide I’m about to put up is blatantly lifted from the little paper pamphlets the city distributes. However, having it online is twice as nice, right? I’ve simplified it here for easy memorization, but you can find more details at the NYC.gov website.
Recyclables in NYC come in two categories:
1. Paper and cardboard
2. Containers, metal, glass, plastic, and beverage cartons (Take note! That milk/orange juice carton goes HERE, not in the paper/cardboard pile! Misconception #1 cleared up.)
How to Put it Out
Rinse your containers before you put them in the recycling.
Paper/cardboard goes in green bins
Containers, etc. go in blue bins
If you are not lucky enough to live in a building where your super or maintenance crew take care of it for you, you need to put it all out in clear bags. I still haven’t figured out where to buy those. If you do, could you let me know? (@PoppyNYC says Costco. I know that I couldn’t find them at Duane Reade.)
You can totally crush up anything you want to save space. It doesn’t matter.
What’s OK, and What is Not
OK: White paper, colored paper, glossy paper, staples that are in that paper, mail and envelopes, wrapping paper (Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!), boxes, tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls, cardboard from product packaging, paper bags, cardboard egg cartons, newspapers, magazines and catalogs, phone books and softcover books
Not OK: Spiral binding on paper notebooks (annoying, but true), soiled paper (including your greasy pizza boxes), waxed or plastic-coated paper, hardcover books, napkins, paper towels, tissues
OK: Cans, pet food, empty aerosol cans, dried out paint cans, aluminum foil and aluminum trays, metal furniture, bottles, jars, jugs, milk and juice cartons, appliances with more than 50% metal
Not OK: Deli and yogurt containers, plastic toys, cups (I’m going to say, “Oops” on all those), plastic bags, plastic wrap, styrofoam, mirrors, lightbulbs ceramics, glassware, anything that is not a bottle or jug, batteries, caps and lids
Bonus: What to Do With Stuff
This can include books, clothing, computers, electronics, furniture, housewares and kitchen items. Go to nyc.gov/stuffexchange and look it up. Or just stick it on Freecycle and watch it get claimed in a matter of five seconds. Seriously, those people will take anything.
There! I know that cleared some things up for me, and I hope it did for you too.
But guess what? If you don’t live in NYC, this is all useless for you, because it’s different everywhere! Oh, don’t you love our modern recycling system?