I’ve been recycling all wrong

items you can rrecycling in nyc

Sadly, film plastic, flexible plastic, and items like razors with metal, l can not be recycled in NYC. Place these single use plastics in your regular trash disposal.

I was surprised to learn that plastic “recycling” bags can not be recycled, among other items such as light bulbs, chip bags, plastic wrap, deodorant containers and toothpaste tubes. These are all things I put into a plastic bag in my garbage can at home, with the thought of,  “It’s fine to use, I’m recycling it.” I feel like a fool!

I learned just how many packaging containers are not recyclable after reading the NPR article “More U.S. Towns Are Feeling The Pinch As Recycling Becomes Costlier” and viewing the accompanying interactive presentation “Plastics”. It was eye-opening.

To add to the confusion and fool-ery, towns and states have different recycling parameters. What one local sanitation department will accept for recycling can differ from the neighboring town.

It’s important to recycle properly because it costs taxpayers money to remove what can not be recycled from your bag at the sorting facility. Why are some items recyclable and others are not? It’s based on the market. Recycling is a business. If it’s too costly for the buyer to repurpose the material, it’s considered a non-recyclable item.

Below is a list of items from www1.nyc.gov website. These items should NOT be included into your recycling can.

  • Paper with heavy wax or plastic coating (candy wrappers, take-out and freezer containers, etc.)
  • Soiled or soft paper (napkins, paper towels, tissues)
  • Hardcover books (schools should follow their school  book recycling procedures)
  • Batteries
  • Electronic devices banned from disposal
  • Printer cartridges
  • Glass items other than glass bottles and jars (such as mirrors, light bulbs, ceramics, and glassware)
  • Window blinds
  • Foam plastic items (such as foam food service containers, cups and trays, foam protective packing blocks, and, and foam packing peanuts)
  • Flexible plastic items (such as single-serve food and drink squeezable pouches and tubes such as toothpaste, lotion, cosmetics, or sports balls such as basketballs, bowling balls, soccer balls, footballs, yoga balls)
  • Film plastic (such as plastic shopping bags and wrappers.) Bring plastic bags and film to participating stores for recycling
  • Cigarette lighters and butane gas lighters
  • Cassette and VHS tapes
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Pens and markers
  • “Tanglers” (such as cables, wires, cords, hoses)
  • Rigid plastic containers containing medical “sharps” or disposable razors
  • Containers that held dangerous or corrosive chemicals

For a complete list of what can and cannot be recycled click here.

According to the recycling industry, only about 9% of plastic waste in the U.S. gets recycled every year. How is this so?

I’m going to challenge myself to recycle smartly and use less plastic. Sometimes I’ll buy pre- chopped vegetables in the soft plastic bags or spinach in a bag. I’m going to stop buying that stuff. These “film plastic” packages are not recycled. Prior to reading the NPR article, I didn’t know that. Likewise, plastic recycling bags, can not be recycled (so confusing??).  I ordered paper bags on amazon to use instead.

I saw this video pop up on facebook about a man named  Afroz Shah, who in Mumbai started cleaning up a beach near his home,  by himself. The shoreline was literally covered in garbage and plastic. His enthusiasm and concern caught on and people started to join in the effort.  Three years later, the beach was clean and sea turtles returned. The video is inspiring and reminded me that our individual effort is worthwhile.