Fun Facts about Recycling in NYC

I spend a lot of time with people who are getting rid of stuff. A frequent question that my clients ask me is, “Can I recycle this?” Usually I know the answer. But sometimes I wonder if I’m giving the right advice.

I figured that I couldn’t be the only Professional Organizer who faces this issue, so I inquired about doing a recycling program at our monthly NAPO-NY meeting. (That’s the NY chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers). Once I got the green light, I reached out to the NYC Department of Sanitation and set it up for our July meeting.

The meeting was last night, and my hunch that I was not the only organizer with doubts was borne out by the barrage of questions that the speaker fielded. She told me afterwards that we were the most engaged and enthusiastic audience she had addressed thus far!

The Department of Sanitation’s website has plenty of information about what and how to recycle. You can find the information here. There’s a very enlightening video that’s worth watching.

Here are some of the interesting facts I learned last night:

  • Soft paper (like tissues, paper towels, and tissue paper) get thrown in the trash. They are not recycled.
  • Paper that is waxy or plastic-coated does not get recycled.
  • Paper cups and plastic cups can be recycled in their respective bins. That means your cardboard Starbucks cup can go in the paper recycling bin — but put the plastic cover in the plastic recycling bin.
  • Clear bags signify to the Sanitation Department that the contents are to be recycled. Opaque bags signify trash.
  • Don’t place plastic bags of recyclables in your building’s bin. Empty the bags into the bin. However, if you have enough to recycle, you can fill your own clear bag and put it in your building’s recycle area.
  • If you have a shredder, you can empty the shredded paper into the paper recycling bin.
  • Sticky notes can be recycled with paper. So can window envelopes — but not padded envelopes that have bubble plastic in them. Those go in the trash.
  • You don’t need to remove staples from documents before recycling them!
  • The only glass items that are recyclable are bottles and jars. End of story.
  • If your pizza box is really soiled, put it in the trash.

I hope this list will save you a lot of head-scratching when you’re trying to figure out how to dispose of something!