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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle NYC

Updated: May 5, 2021

What can I recycle through NYC Department of Sanitation?

Knowing what is, and is not recyclable, is important for the success of our city's recycling program. "Aspirational recycling", which occurs when a person drops a non-recyclable item into the city's recycling program causes more environmental harm than good. Maybe a non-recyclable item ends up in the bin based on a wishful intention to keep an item that feels like it should be recyclable out of a landfill. Perhaps the environmentalist is not sure whether an item is recyclable, so the questionable item goes in the bin with hopes that it will find new life in the recycling facility. Unfortunately, non-recyclable items can contaminate an entire bin of recyclables, sending the whole batch to a landfill. Sorting machines can also be jammed by items that do not belong in them.

  • Plastic bottles, cups, jars, and jugs (regardless of recycling number on container bottom)

  • Beverage cartons and drink boxes (juice cartons, juice boxes)

  • Milk cartons

  • Plastic cutlery (spoons, forks, knives)

  • Plastic plates

  • Plastic hangers

  • Rigid plastic caps and lids

  • Rigid plastic food containers (tupperware, yogurt, deli, hummus, dairy tubs, cookie tray inserts, "clamshell" containers, and other plastic takeout containers)

  • Rigid plastic nonfood containers

  • Rigid plastic packaging ("blisterpak" and "clamshell" consumer packaging, acetate boxes)

  • Rigid plastic housewares (flower pots, mixing bowls, plastic appliances, etc.)

  • Bulk plastic (crates, buckets, pails, furniture, large toys, large appliances, etc.)

  • Plastic appliances

  • CD and DVD cases

  • Satellite dishes

  • Telephones

Plastic Items That Can't Be Recycled

  • Styrofoam/plastic foam items (foam cups, foam egg cartons, foam trays, foam packing peanuts, foam sporting equipment, etc.)

  • Plastic bags, wrappers, shower curtains, and all kinds of plastic "film"

  • Plastic rings from soda and beer cans

  • Cell phones

  • Cassettes, VHS tapes

  • CDs, DVDs, disks, vinyl records

  • Sports balls (basketballs, bowling balls, soccer balls, footballs, yoga balls, etc.)

  • Plastic tubes (toothpaste, lotion, and cosmetics, etc.)

  • Single-serve food and drink squeezable pouches (juice pouches, baby food squeeze pouches, yogurt-to-go pouches, etc.)

  • Garden hoses

  • PVC pipes (must be no longer than 4 feet and placed out as bulk trash)

  • Containers that held dangerous or corrosive chemicals

  • Pens and markers

  • 3-ring binders (if separate, the metal rings can be recycled)

  • Umbrellas

  • Lighters

  • Luggage

Common Mistakes:

Items smaller than a credit card: These aren't managed well by the sorters, and can jam up the machines. They'll end up in the landfill anyway, so place them in the trash.

Plastic films: NYC recycling does not manage plastic film waste, so separate the recyclable plastic from the film. Either dispose of the film in the garbage, or deposit it in a plastic film recycling bin. The Covid-19 Pandemic has reduced participation in plastic film recycling, but you can find bins for plastic films at Key Foods and Rite Aid stores. Pre-pandemic plastic films were accepted by Stop and Shop's Peapod Delivery drivers. We look forward to the resumed participation of local companies in the future. Do you know a local site that accepts plastic films? Email and we will add it to our list!

Food residue on recyclables: Rinse plastic food containers and cartons before recycling to avoid contaminating a bin of recyclables.

  • Aerosol cans (empty)

  • Aluminum foil wrap and trays

  • Clean metallic car parts

  • Dried-out paint cans (metal lid may be recycled separately)

  • Faucets

  • Food cans (empty and clean)

  • Household metal (wire hangers with paper removed)

  • Irons

  • Knife blades (Blades of sharp metal knives (such as carving or chef's knives) should be wrapped in cardboard, taped, labeled "CAUTION: SHARP" and placed out with metal/glass/plastic recyclables)

  • Lighting fixtures

  • Nuts and bolts

  • Metal utensils (including forks, spoons, and knives)

  • Metal caps

  • Pots and pans

  • Satellite dish

  • Small appliances that are mostly metal

Bulky Metal Items

Large items that are all metal or mostly metal are recyclable as bulk items. If an item exceeds the listed weight, height, or amount requirements, you must hire a private carter for disposal.

Large items that are all metal or mostly metal and are recyclable as bulk items include:

  • Air conditioners

  • Auto parts (containing no hazardous materials or chemicals)

  • Aluminum lawn furniture with plastic webbing

  • Barbecue grills

  • Bedsprings/Metal bed frames

  • Bicycles

  • Boilers

  • Cabinets and appliances

  • Clothes dryers

  • Dishwashers

  • Furniture

  • Generators (less than 100 pounds)

  • Lawnmower (empty fuel to be used in new lawnmower or bring to SAFE disposal event)

  • Ovens

  • Pipes (no longer than 4 feet)

  • Porcelain coated metal bathtubs and sinks

  • Radiators

  • Snow blowers (less than 100 pounds)

  • Washing machines

  • Water heaters (50 gallons or less)

For appliances containing CFC gas, a CFC and Freon Removal appointment must be made prior to disposal.

Common Mistakes:

Metal items smaller than a credit card: These can become jammed in recycling sorters and will end up in a landfill. If you can sort the small metal items by material, they can be recycled following these instructions.

Food residue on recyclables: Rinse metal food containers and cartons before recycling to avoid contaminating a bin of recyclables.

Only glass bottles and jars can be recycled.

Glass Items That Can't Be Recycled

  • Drinking glasses and glassware

  • Eyeglasses

  • Glass tables

  • Glass windows

  • Light bulbs

  • Mirrors

Broken Glass

To avoid bag punctures, broken glass should be placed into a cardboard box labeled "broken glass." The box should be sealed with tape and placed into a trash can or securely tied trash bag. Small containers of broken glass may be placed directly into a trash can or bag. Larger, properly sealed, and labeled cardboard boxes that contain broken glass can be placed out for collection next to regular refuse containers/bags. The broken ends of smaller single pieces of broken glass can sometimes be protected with several pages of newspaper taped around the broken end before being placed into a trash can or bag.

Paper items that can be recycled in NYC

Place mixed paper, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and phone books out for recycling collection using any one of the following methods:

  • Tie with twine into bundles no taller than 18 inches

  • Place in clear, untinted plastic bags between 13 and 55 gallons

  • Place in bins 32 gallons or less with green labels on both sides and the lid.

The bag or container must weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection. Bins must be secured with a tight-fitting lid. The City does not give away green recycling bins.

Recycling Corrugated Cardboard

Only corrugated cardboard boxes may be recycled as corrugated cardboard. Heavily-soiled or greasy cardboard should be disposed of with regular trash. Corrugated cardboard must be flattened and tied with sturdy twine into bundles 18 inches tall or smaller. Bundles must not be placed in containers or clear bags unless broken into small pieces.

What about paper goods that have been used for food? There is so much conflicting advice!

The Department of Sanitation for NYC answers this question for our area! You can recycle pizza boxes- just remove and discard soiled liner; recycle little plastic supporter with plastics. Paper cups are also recyclable. The waxy lining is ok if cups are empty and clean, remember to separate a plastic lid into the correct bin.

Common Mistakes:

Recycling paper waste that is not quite recyclable, including paper with a plastic coating (candy wrappers, take-out, and freezer containers, etc.), soiled or paper (napkins, paper towels, tissues), or hardcover books.

Textile Recycling

NYC does not manage textile recycling. Fortunately for our community, Green Tree Textiles brings their dropoff bin every Sunday to the Riverdale Y Market during market hours. They accept clothing and household linens, shoes, and accessories.

Reduce and Reuse

  • Preparing to leave home with a reusable water bottle and shopping bag is an easy way to minimize the chance that you'll end up unnecessarily consuming single-use products.

  • Reuse locally: Offer unwanted household items as gifts to the community. Ask your neighbors if they have items to pass on before purchasing new. Presently there are many online forums where community members offer and receive gifts, including an email group and several Buy Nothing groups on Facebook. Central Riverdale/Spuyten Duyvil, North Riverdale/Fieldston, Kingsbridge/Marble Hill/ Van Cortlandt Village. The Riverdale Minyan runs a borrow/lend group for medical equipment, email for information. Pre-pandemic, local groups would run clothing swaps from time to time, taking place at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and for children's clothes at the playgroup meeting at St. Gabriel's Church (contact: Check in for these groups to resume in the future. Does your community group run a swap? Email to let us know!

  • Donate unwanted household items. The Riverdale Y Farmer's Market has a donation bin at times, and MyUnique Thrift is a for-profit shop that accepts donated items.

  • Buy paper products with recycled paper (post-consumer) content.

  • Stop junk mail to reduce waste. Click here for tips.

  • Avoid disposables when there are durable alternatives.

  • Think of the environment when choosing batteries. When possible, use rechargeable batteries and dispose of them properly when they no longer charge.. Dispose of batteries safely, see guidance from NYC here and here.

  • Reduce packaging by avoiding single-serve packages.

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