NYC now recycling almost all plastic

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Eco-conscious New Yorkers, take heart: that confusing plastic recycling system is no more.

City residents will no longer have to remember what it means when the bottom of their iced coffee cups has a triangle-bound one or two or three: the Department of Sanitation has a new system that can take any and all hard plastics.

“Previous New Yorkers could only recycle plastic ones and twos, which were essentially just plastic bottles,” explained Ron Gonen, the city’s deputy commissioner of sanitation, recycling, and sustainability.

Now, he says, the recycling system can process cups, containers, toys, laundry bottles, even plastic bottle caps—any rigid plastic can go in with metal and glass recyclables.

If the object can be ripped or torn, however, Gonen asks that it be placed in a separate receptacle for paper recyclables.

There are a few things that still can’t be recycled: plastic shopping bags, which can be returned to any grocery store citywide; styrofoam; and plastic wrapping.

It is especially important to avoid including styrofoam, Gonen cautioned, as it can break the recycling machinery.

But “every other kind of plastic that’s out there,” Gonen said, “We ask that people please put it in their recycling containers, because now we can keep it out of landfills.”

Gonen is hoping that simplifying the plastic system will result in more metals and glass being recycled as well.

The Department of Sanitation recycling program expects to collect over 50,000 tons of additional material per year due to the inclusion of all these plastics, as well as save the city over $600,000 a year in costs typically associated with landfills.

The city’s landfills are located in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and the city must pay to put waste into those landfills, as well as cover the cost of the truck, barge or train that transports the waste there to return to the city.

New Yorkers are urged to recycle paper as well: the recycling of paper apparently brings in significant revenue for the city.

Ultimately, Gonen said, the benefits of recycling don’t just stop at the environment: it saves tax dollars and and contributes to local employment, as our recycling facilities are based in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

What can be recycled?

GOOD:

  • all rigid plastics: iced coffee cups, yogurt containers, laundry bottles, broken toys, etc.
  • paper: anything that can be ripped or torn, even paper towels with a little bit of food on them
  • metals
  • glass

BAD:

  • plastic wrap
  • plastic bags — return to any grocery store in the city instead
  • styrofoam
  • significantly dirty paper towels, with more than a little bit of food on it—but as the city expands the compost program, New Yorkers will be able to put these in with “organics”

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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