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Your Recycling Questions Answered: Part One

Mar 15, 2022 | Food & Waste, Sustainability

Your Recycling Questions Answered: Part One

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In New York City, only half of the items accepted for recycling actually end up in recycling facilities. When items are thrown away dirty or not sorted, they end up in landfills along with the rest of NYC’s trash, releasing greenhouse gasses as they break down. Even worse, many recyclables—especially plastics—never really break down, causing public health concerns.

While we should strive to reduce waste by cutting back on the items we throw away, recycling is a great way to reduce the impact of the items in our waste stream.

The different recycling laws across the nation and state can make the process confusing. With the help of experts at the Department of Sanitation and environmental non-profit GrowNYC, we’re answering your recycling questions and providing helpful tips to make your recycling efforts as effective as possible.


What happens to my recycling? Does it just get mixed in with trash?

Much of NYC’s residential recycling—over 800 tons a day—is transported from your curb to Sims Municipal Recycling facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Here, paper and cardboard are separated and transported to a separate processing location. Metal, plastic, glass, and cartons go through a series of shredding and separation, ensuring that the purest materials possible are sold to manufacturers of recycled materials.


Do I need to wash out the items I want to recycle?

It’s always best to keep your recycling as clean as possible.

Washing metal, plastic and glass containers before tossing them in the bin keeps pests away and also reduces contamination at the processing center. This ensures that as much recycling as possible stays out of the trash when sorted at the center. After you rinse out your plastic bottle, replace the cap to keep it from getting stuck in conveyor belts while being sorted.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to keep paper and cardboard clean. If you’re not sure if a pizza box or other food container is worthy of recycling, try cutting out the dirty part and recycling the rest.


Where and when can I recycle old laptops, cell phones, chargers, etc.?

Many electronics contain chemicals that can be harmful to human health and are not accepted in NYC’s trash or recycling.

If you have electronics you would like to dispose of, look for a donation location near you or learn how you can enroll your building in ecycleNYC: an easy and convenient way to recycle for buildings with 10 or more units.


Recycling is important and made easy by City agencies. We hope this information will be helpful to you when sorting your waste. Please feel free to reach out with any additional recycling questions you may have!

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Abigail Deville: Light of Freedom
Abigail Deville: Light of Freedom, Narrated by Brooke Kamin Rappoport