Friday, December 12, 2008

What plastic can be recycled in New York City?

I realize I've made several posts about plastic recycling, so let me get this out of the way:

Recycling is not the answer. Recycling is the last option before the landfill. Recycling is what you do when you cannot avoid, reduce, or re-use. Recycling takes a lot of resources and energy, and things (especially plastic things) are not recycled so much as they are downcycled. A plastic bottle cannot be recycled into another plastic bottle.

That said, recycling is still important. There is a lot of plastic out there and while the idea is to use much, much less of it, we still have to deal with what is already there.

So. What plastic can you recycle in New York City?

Let's start with The New York City Department of Sanitation. Many well-intentioned New Yorkers (including me until I learned!) put all of their plastic containers in the recycling bin for the City to pick up. However the City only recycles plastic bottles and jugs made of #1 PET and #2 HDPE-- any bottle where the neck is smaller than the body. Even if the container is labeled #1 or #2, if it isn't a bottle they can't recycle it-- because they are formed differently and have different melting points.

More information on NYC's Residential Recycling Program can be found at these websites:

Natural Resources Defence Council

Thanks to Local Law 1 of 2008, we've been able to recycle plastic bags in NYC since June. The law requires large stores and chain stores that provide plastic bags to accept shopping bags, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper delivery bags. Not only that but they must offer re-usable bags for sale! I hadn't realized that. I've been thrilled to see re-usable bags popping up everywhere and thought all the stores caught on to the re-usable bag trend-- but they did it because they had to by law. Food for thought.

This law is under threat from the New York State Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling Act, which is a much weaker law that would in effect cancel out NYC's program. No news yet on what is happening here. Have you written the Governor?

UPDATE: The State plastic bag recycling law was signed by the Governor with a provision to let NYC's law stand. Win, win. Thanks to all who wrote!

More information on recycling plastic bags in NYC:

Beginning in January 2009, we can recycle Brita pitcher filters and clean #5 plastic food containers at participating Whole Foods Stores, or by mailing them in.

The Gimme 5 program is piloted by Preserve, which recycles the containers into household products. Not every Whole Foods store will participate-- it is up to the store manager to make that decision. If you want to take advantage of this program, please contact your local Whole Foods store and ask. UPDATE: The Union Square Whole Foods is participating !

#5 Plastic Caps
Aveda started collecting polypropylene plastic caps in September 2008. These include caps that twist on with a threaded neck such as caps on shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter. The caps do not need to display a #5 symbol but should be rigid and within Aveda's guidelines.

The Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn accepts many items for recycling that aren't accepted elsewhere:
* #1 & # 2 (where mouth is wide or wider than the body, meaning NOT bottles) plastics
* #4 plastics
* #5 plastic tubs, cups & specifically marked lids and caps (discard any with paper labels)
* Plastic film

I am not a member and am unsure if just anyone can bring items in-- but I will be checking this out! Eventually. Its a bit of a hike from Astoria. More information and hours are here.

Do you know of other plastic recycling options in New York City? Let me know.


The Green Cat said...

Anyone can bring recyclables to the coop on recycling days. I usually pre-sort mine to make it easier to drop them of fin the appropriate bins at the co-op. Also, make sure they are CLEAN (I mean really clean) and have no labels or anything. I handed in a tub that had a label on it once and it was handed back to me. They have spray bottles and papers towels that you can use to clean your stuff there but I was appalled at having to use some kind of cleaning spray (I don't use that at home) and to waste paper towels! (another product I don't use). I now make sure my plastics are all SPOTLESS!

I like to combine my trip to the co-op with a stop at 3RLiving. They are nearby and they have bins set up in the shop to collect batteries, crayons, computer disks, small electronics, ink cartridges, cell phones, etc. You can do all your "non-curbside" recycling in one trip! More info here:

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