Reduce, Reuse, Recycle NYC
Updated: May 5
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)
Plastic cutlery (spoons, forks, knives)
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.)
CD and DVD cases
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
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.)
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)
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 email@example.com 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)
Food cans (empty and clean)
Household metal (wire hangers with paper removed)
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)
Nuts and bolts
Metal utensils (including forks, spoons, and knives)
Pots and pans
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:
Auto parts (containing no hazardous materials or chemicals)
Aluminum lawn furniture with plastic webbing
Bedsprings/Metal bed frames
Cabinets and appliances
Generators (less than 100 pounds)
Lawnmower (empty fuel to be used in new lawnmower or bring to SAFE disposal event)
Pipes (no longer than 4 feet)
Porcelain coated metal bathtubs and sinks
Snow blowers (less than 100 pounds)
Water heaters (50 gallons or less)
For appliances containing CFC gas, a CFC and Freon Removal appointment must be made prior to disposal.
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
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com). Check in for these groups to resume in the future. Does your community group run a swap? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!
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.