Gallery: GREEN RANT: Why Won’t NYC Recycle Plastic?

 

Why does NYC send easily recyclable PET plastic containers to landfill?

New York City recycles plastic – or so I thought! For the last several years I have been carefully scrubbing all plastic number 1 (PET) and number 2 (HDPE) containers (such as most deli containers that you get when you buy tomatoes or sliced fruit) and collecting them for NYC recycling. Just yesterday the superintendent of my building brought a giant bag of deli containers back up to me from the recycling bin and said ‘This all needs to go in the trash – NYC won’t recycle it‘. I stared at him disbelief until he pulled out a flyer from the NYC government stating that it WON’T TAKE ANY PLASTIC EXCEPT PLASTIC BOTTLES – even easily recyclable #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE) plastic!

This news blew my mind – why would the New York City government waste a chance to recycle all the PET and HDPE in non-bottle containers such as fruit and deli containers? Especially when most other cities (such as San Francisco) DO recycle all plastics? According to the NYC recycling website, it seems that the reason NYC is not doing it is because ‘it is not worth the effort’:

In other municipal recycling programs in the U.S., such as San Francisco, residents are encouraged to recycle all plastics in order to maximize the recycling rate of HDPE and PET. If residents do not have to think about which plastic to recycle or to discard, the thinking goes, they will recycle more overall. In such programs, non-HDPE and non-PET resins are usually sorted out and discarded at the recycling plant. In New York City, high labor and transportation costs suggest that such an approach is not worth the expense and extra citizen effort.

To summarize, apparently New York City recycling workers are simply too lazy to sort out recyclable plastics from the non-recyclable plastics, and they don’t trust NY citizens to be able to figure out the difference themselves. Grrrr…

What do YOU think New Yorkers? Do you think we can be trusted to tell the difference between a #1 and a #6 on the bottom of a plastic container? Do you care? I like to hope I am not the only one angry about all this wasted effort and wasted plastic… If you find this issue frustrating, complain the NYC goverment about it HERE >

And please let me know your thoughts below in the comment section!

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36 Comments

  1. greentycoon November 14, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Although I am in the green business, I do not find not being able to recycle most plastics in NYC “frustrating”. I tend not to purchase foods in plastic containers to begin with. If I want pineapple, I purchase the whole fruit and not the chopped fruit in the clear round deli container. I place the pineapple in the produce bag and bring the bag back to the grocery store for recyling. If I buy from Green Market, I place fruit into plastic bags, then into my reusable bag and drop the plastic bags off at a grocery store for recycling. Because I am a stickler for food safety I never place exposed fruits and vegetables into a reusable carry bag without a protective barrier bag (produce bag).

    Also, I am against reusable mugs at coffee shops. Most people do not thoroughly clean their mugs if at all. The coffe shop staff is then handling hundreds of cups bare handed, potentially spreading germs and bacteria. It is more hygenic for them to handle clean, single use cups than hundreds of different cups coming from who knows where.

  2. NYC Breaks Ground on $8... October 29, 2010 at 10:34 am

    [...] New Yorkers have quite a few gripes about the state of recycling in our city, but this week brought exciting news that is making us feel more optimistic. Mayor Bloomberg’s office announced that the city broke ground on a new recycling center that will minimize the amount of trucking between pickup and drop-off sites by more than 260,000 miles a year. The new Sims Municipal Recycling Facility will be located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and will serve as the principal processing facility for all of the city’s metal, glass, and plastic recyclables. The plan to open the center is a key part of PlaNYC, the city’s goal of improving air quality, cutting traffic and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Oh, and did we mention that the center will also create 100 new jobs for the area? [...]

  3. maydelle July 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I know this post was a long time ago now… but have you found anywhere in NYC that we CAN drop off plastics? Whole FOods at 97th Street has a drop off can for #5 plastics but I’d love to find somewhere for #1 and #2s.
    Thanks!

  4. ggreen January 30, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    While I do think Dr. Macbride’s post is very informative, it doesn’t tell the whole story. We used to recycle a much wider range of plastics in NYC. It was the Bloomberg administration in the post-9/11 recession that first stopped the plastics recycling program entirely, then restarted it in this limited capacity. As a long-time resident of Park Slope, I remember when we used to have a successful pilot program for recycling composting materials in the 90′s. That too went by the wayside rather than find a way to maintain it or expand it citywide.

    I also find it alarming that the city’s continued emphasis on #1 and #2 jugs and bottles is based on consumer data that is now over 15 years old! While my eating habits haven’t changed overly much in that time, I have seen a dramatic increase in the volume of plastic tubs and other #5 containers in my trash (such as less aluminum and more plastic used for take-out).

    Yet I also think that the economics cannot be overstated: it’s easy for those of us who feel passionately about this subject to question the city’s financial commitment to it, but in a city of over 8 million people, not everyone can afford the increase in taxes it would take to dramatically change the situation.

    I agree wholeheartedly with kazar about educating citizenry. In my 20 years here, New Yorkers have been successfully educated first to separate paper and then other recyclables. The DoS has even changed the rules as I described and residents have adjusted. Like kazar, my recycling habits were instilled as a young person, in a Massachusetts suburb committed to recycling. What’s to say we can’t do the same in a municipality this size? I think kazar’s recommendation for borough drop-off centers is terrific, both to assist those of us looking for broader recycling capability and for educating the wider population; I have added my voice as well to the DoS site.

  5. kazar December 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    I’d like to thank Dr. MacBride for the incredibly educational and cogent comment on this discussion. But one thing remains unanswered: Since the economics of recycling change drastically if concerned consumers properly pre-sort their plastics, why does NYC not provide convenient drop-off centers at several locations in each borough? That is the point I just made in the complaint I just filed by clicking the link to nyc.gov

    I learned to recycle as a very young person in a nature-loving family. The Boy Scouts had a recycling depot for glass and metal. We had to soak the bottles and scrape off the labels and then sort the glass colors into different bins. We had to remove the labels from cans and ensure they were well-washed. Although we were only a family of five people, the volume of trash we recycled was pretty staggering!

    I do now understand and accept all the arguments as to why NYC takes only jug- and bottle-shaped #1 and #2 plastics.

    I do not understand the attitude that there is no point in properly educating NYC citizens and using the sort of super-decentralized free labor model that pre-sorting plastics in the home would represent. How about a pilot program in a neighborhood where the recycling rate is already high, indicating a population already predisposed to recycle?

    kazar

  6. meamwayne November 27, 2009 at 2:41 am

    I think some of the people on this blog are a little out of touch with reality. Try this thought experiment: Imagine that you’re the one who has to sort the recyclable materials. How much plastic can you sort in an hour? How much would they have to pay you to do it as a full-time job while trying to live in a city like New York or San Francisco? Would you even think about doing any job involving garbage without being given the same health benefits as the sanitation workers who pick it up? Even if everyone separated their garbage at home before they put it out, how do you keep it separated when there are only two hoppers on a garbage truck? Would recycling still make ecological sense if it took three trucks with six sanitation workers to do the work currently being done by two guys on one truck? Could any city afford such an expense? Do you really doubt that the New York City weasel is telling the truth when he says that all the plastic in San Francisco goes on a slow boat to China to be sorted at sweatshop wages and that a lot of it ends up in landfills even more environmentally horrific than the ones we have here?

  7. biffsmith123456 July 30, 2009 at 4:08 am

    You people are nuts washing your garbage. Especially a plastic tomato box!! What a waste of water. The tomato box didn’t need to be washed.

    And driving 8 miles to Newark in your car burning fuel and contributing to traffic congestion to drop off a couple pounds of plastic, extra crazy. The gallon or two of petroleum you’re burning to do that could have made all the plastic you’re dumping and you’re causing air pollution.

    By the way, organic figs transported half-way around the world from Turkey and sold at a big Whole Foods supermarket have a huge carbon footprint … the tiny container is nothing comparatively.

  8. Yuka Yoneda Yuka Yoneda July 21, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I know, right? I am right there with you sister. When I think of all the time I wasted washing totally unrecyclable containers, I really get heated. Just to let you know, though, there is some hope. Whole Foods has a recycling program called Gimme 5 where you can bring in your #5 yogurt, hummus and other containers to be remade into Preserve toothbrushes, razors etc.: http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2009/01/gimme-5-recycling/ It’s a start!

  9. bethany July 21, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    im pretty much outraged. i had no idea. im the girl that carries #1 & #2 containers around with me all day (since nyc has no public recycling receptacles) to take them home, “ensuring” that theyll be recycled. ive educated my roommates and friends on recycling ALL #1 & 2 plastics. i cant believe new york is not recycling these. the only reason i justify purchasing iced coffee, is knowing that at least i can take the cup home and recycle it. With the outrageous amount of disposable #1 & #2 containers distributed daily in this city, its appalling enough that there is no initiative being taken to further expand our recycling program, but to not lessen it!? infuriating. thanks for this post. i will absolutely write to the City. and their reasons for not recycling “well, you know its hard and it costs money…so, were just not gonna do it”: completely unacceptable. less consumption has always been the best answer anyway, but still,. for as “progressive” of a city as we claim to be, we should be ashamed.

  10. Dr. MacBride June 22, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    As a public official who has devoted her life to the pursuit of sustainable waste management, I am saddened by the lack of understanding and correct information that is presented in this green rant and many of its comments (those of davidbivins excepted). This lack may be explained by the unavoidable complexity of the subject. Below is an attempt to lead the concern recycler through this complexity.

    —————————————————————–

    The Department of Sanitation asks residents to recycle plastic bottles and jugs, and not other types of plastic, in curbside recycling. We do not accept plastic tubs, trays, cups, bags, crates, flower pots, Styrofoam, toys or any other type of plastics besides bottles and jugs. An easy rule to remember is: if you would not call it a bottle or a jug, and it’s plastic, don’t recycle it with your curbside recycling. No exceptions.

    We understand, and appreciate, that many residents are confused, frustrated and even angry that our curbside recycling program allows them to recycle only plastic bottles and jugs, as opposed to other types of plastic. If we could make the program simpler and take a wider range of plastics, we would. As will be explained below, we do however have very good, well-studied reasons to insist only plastic bottles and jugs at this time. The reasons take a while to explain, so have patience as you read on to understand.

    Like with Like: The First Basic Concept
    Unlike metal, glass or paper, different types of plastic cannot be recycled together. Each individual type of plastic must be kept separate in the recycling process. The type of plastic reflects what resin it is made of, as well as the specific plastic molding process used to produce it. If different resins and/or molding methods mixed together for recycling, the result is a useless glop that is unsuitable for the production of any new product.

    Numerical Resin Codes: Don’t Tell the Whole Story
    On the bottom of many rigid plastic containers you can find a code number from 1 to 7, surrounded by “chasing arrows”, the international symbol for recycling. These code numbers identify seven separate types, or resins, of plastics. (You may be interested in the section of our website that addresses recycling symbols

    .)

    It would be nice if the code numbers on plastic containers specified what type of plastics could be combined in the recycling process. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The numbers are misleading when it comes to recycling. The code numbers were adopted by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988 to provide an industry-wide standard that would make it easier for manufacturers to identify different types of plastic they produced. The code numbers indicate the general type of chemical compound used to make the product. But as the SPI points out on its web site, (http://www.plasticsindustry.org/AboutPlastics) “The code was not intended to be — nor was it ever promoted as — a guarantee to consumers that a given item bearing the code will be accepted for recycling in their community.”

    In fact, the codes cause more confusion than clarity. They give the impression that anything with a “chasing arrow” can and should be recycled in any municipal program. In reality, the numbers do not guide recycling fully, because they do not reflect all of the different features of any plastic item that we need to know to recycle it. In particular, the numbers do not distinguish between different types of plastic molding. So, for example, a #1 blow molded bottle cannot be combined with a #1 injection molded tub, and so on.

    Why Molding Method is Important
    Molding is the process by which molten plastic is turned into a container or other rigid object in the factory. Plastic bottles are blow-molded, which means that the plastic is extruded by blowing air into it much as a glass bottle is blown. Plastic tubs and trays are injection molded, which means that the plastic is extruded into a fixed mold to form its shape. Blow molded and injection molded plastics have different melting points and cannot be combined in the plastics recycling process, even if they are of the same resin. This is why you cannot mix bottles and jugs with tubs and trays together, even if they share the same code!

    Different Quantities of Differently Molded Resin in NYC Waste
    In 1994/1995, we conducted a detailed and in-depth study of the contents of New Yorkers’ trash and recycling. We sorted through thousands of randomly selected samples Because of the complexity of plastics, we made sure to categorize each of the seven resin codes and molding types. As shown below, #1 and #2 bottles and jugs (which are by definition blow molded) constitute the majority of numbered containers in what New Yorkers consume. They are also the materials that have the strongest secondary markets.

    [img]http://www.inhabitat.com/wp-content/uploads/2b33fa76c2a2e9f7413f00044ba46d6b.jpg[/img] | back

    Secondary Markets: Why They Are Important
    The most plentiful varieties of numbered plastic containers – #1 and #2 bottles and jugs –are also the ones that have strong markets. For any material to get recycled into a new product, it has to find a buyer – a company, known as a “remanufacturer” that is willing to buy the discarded material after it has been collected, sorted, cleaned and baled. Otherwise, we pay to collect and sort discarded materials, but we cannot recoup our costs, and the materials either sit around, or have to be disposed of.

    Recycled #1 and #2 bottles are traded heavily on what are called secondary materials markets. In other words, there are always buyers and sellers. Other types of plastics may have markets that are not as strong. For example, #5 Polypropylene Tubs (such as yogurt tubs) sometimes find buyers, and sometimes don’t. While there are a few companies that buy sorted #5 PP tubs, demand is limited and distance to markets may be too great to be worth the cost of shipping.

    Curbside Recycling and Drop Off Recycling Have Different Secondary Markets
    Markets are not the same for commingled residential collections as for other kinds of collections. Curbside collections are commingled – cans, glass bottles and jugs, foil, metal and beverage cartons are mixed with plastic bottles and jugs when collected, with sorting and cleaning taking place later at a materials recovery facility. To justify sending trucks and collection labor out, we need economies of scale and commingling is part of that economy.

    Drop-Off Programs such as the Park Slope Food Coop or Whole Foods accept, store, and periodically transport clean, pre-sorted plastics that residents bring in to the store voluntarily. This is a very different model of collection, because the sorting and cleaning is done ahead of time by the consumer. This “free labor” changes the economics of recycling, and allows weak markets to find buyers for recycled plastic that are not available for NYC’s commingled residential recycling.

    Both strong and weak secondary markets fluctuate. Sometimes certain materials are worth a lot, other times very little. In contrast, commingled collections don’t fluctuate. The material put in the recycling bin day in, day out has to be collected, no matter what. This means that only markets that are strong in the long term can work reliably with commingled collections.

    Making Sure What You Recycle Actually Ends Up Being Recycled
    If we allowed people to recycle their plastic yogurt tub, # 1 tray, Styrofoam cup, or beach ball in their curbside recycling program, many would probably be very happy. But this happiness would have a false basis, because in most cases these additional plastic items would be sorted out at the recycling plant and sent to the trash. The reason we ask residents to recycle only plastic bottles and jugs – and not other types of plastics – is to make sure that most of what residents put in the recycling bin actually ends up being made into new products, instead of being sorted out later and disposed of as residue.

    NYC’s Curbside Program vs. Other Cities’ Programs
    As mentioned above, strong secondary markets only exist for #1 PET Bottles and #2 HDPE bottles. These two types of plastic bottles make up 95% of all bottles, so the vast majority of plastic bottles recycled in NYC do end up being made into new products. The remainder (5%) are currently discarded as residue – this is a pretty low rate of residue. In fact, this rate is far lower than residue plastics discarded from programs in other cities that accept a wider range of types of plastics in their municipal recycling.

    If you look at what other cities are doing with regard to plastic recycling, you’ll find that some ask for anything plastic in the recycling bin, others any plastic container, and still others any plastic with a resin code. In reality, these cities are all recycling #1 PET and #2 HDPE bottles like NYC, but are not necessarily recycling any of the other plastics.

    There are two reasons why these cities ask for a wider range of plastics than NYC. On the East Coast, other cities ask for all numbered containers because this will maximize the chance for people to properly recycle #1 and #2 bottles and jugs that have well-developed recycling markets, technologies, and remanufacturing processes. Other types of plastic are disposed of as refuse after the most valuable plastics are sorted out.

    On the West Coast, the economics are different. Proximity to Asian markets with low wages and high appetites for plastics mean that it is economical to ship unsorted loads of plastics to China and countries. There, the costs of sorting are lower and environmental laws less restrictive in remanufacturing and disposal practices than in the US. The proximity of West Coast cities to these markets means that a container full of mixed bottles, tubs, bags, and even toys will be worth something in Asia. Not everything in this mixed load will necessarily end up recycled, but Asian buyers find it worth it to buy the whole load because some of the mixed load will command a price.

    Conclusion
    By now the logic behind asking for only plastic bottles and jugs in our commingled curbside recycling should be coming into focus:

    - All plastic bottles and jugs are blow-molded.
    - The vast majority of plastic bottles and jugs are #1 or #2.
    - Strong secondary markets only exist for #1 and #2 blow molded plastics when collected in commingled form

    We are currently in the process of updating our website to convey this information, and more, on the very complex subject of plastics and plastics recycling. If you have any comments or questions on this response to your inquiry, I would be interested in hearing from you. Please submit comments via the Wasteless website: http://www.nyc.gov/wasteless.

  11. palnquin May 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I reuse all of my plastic yogurt, cottage cheese, soup, berry containers again and again but I still have dozens of them that I don’t want to have wind up in a land fill. Watercolor classes and other art classes used to use them for mixing paint, washing brushes, etc. Is there any school or outlet for these in the NYC metro area. They are overtaking my closet!

  12. H1977 April 18, 2009 at 7:22 am

    So I’ve lived in SF,& now live in Santa monica. The person above that said so. Cal. Doesn’t recycle doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Recycling is free, you no longer even have to sort the plastic from the paper, they also recycle lawn waste,& I’ve never lived in a city that made it easier! I just read an article stating that my city ( in southern calif.) recycles 80% of their waste. When I lived 5 minutes away in LA, it was just as easy! It’s sad the NYC chooses not to do more for the earth. Maybe that’s why we get so many people moving here from NY.

  13. kyliefnyc April 13, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for the park slope recycling tip, I also found a place in Newark which is a short 8 mile drive for anyone
    with a car, they recycle most plastics. Waste Mgmt Recycle America 150 Saint Charles St. Newark, NJ 07105
    Phone # 973-344-3003. They are open weekdays till 5:30 and on Saturdays. I think there should be some mobile recycling units for New York City for those people who would be willing to save their plastics until units come around once or twice a month.

  14. davidbivins April 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    This article only demonstrates your inability to do 5 minutes of research. The cartoonish recycling fliers and labels that we all get in the mail have told you what you can and cannot recycle for years. Even if you don’t know English very well you can figure it out (and they’re available in multiple languages).
    Secondly, and this is what really irks me about your annoyance, San Francisco accepts those containers for recycling merely to simplify the process for residents. San Francisco then THROWS AWAY the plastics that are too difficult to recycle. New York just minimizes that cycle by having residents do it instead.
    The idea that New York City sanitation workers are lazy for not being able to sort your trash is also laughable. Obviously you don’t know that they actually sort through all the subway system trash and sort out the recycling. Is that lazy?
    While you’re entitled to your opinion, it’s rather reckless of you to post such an ignorant post when the information is so easily found online. It’s really disappointing that you’ve stoked the anger and frustration of many other commenters based on your ignorance. Nice job.

  15. andreabakacs March 31, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    New York City makes recycling so complicated that I’ve never, ever ever met a single person that has been able to tell me what can and can’t be left for curbside recycling. They simple think if they see a recycling symbol and a number, then they can recycle it. In a way this is true, all those items ARE recyclable, they just probably aren’t part of the tax payer curbside program. However, you can take your #5 tubs to the Whole Foods on East Houston, to the Park Slope Co-Op. When I tell people what they can and can’t recycle and that if just one non bottle shaped #1 or #2 or any #3-#7 gets in the batch it ruins the whole lot they are usually first shocked, then move on to whatever else is on their mind. Therefore I don’t think NYC residents would actually pay more to have more recycled. Sad but true. I try to convert everyone I meet, and hopefully with several small organizations trying to increase awareness we will change the system one day. In the meantime, go to Whole Foods to drop off your take-out containers.

  16. dcdomain March 26, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Just came back from San Francisco and I loved that their takeout food containers are so much more enviro-conscious than ours. No styrofoam! Also all those composting bins everywhere, great!

    Don’t be too disappointed with NYC though. Last year when I was in Japan, I found out that Tokyo doesn’t recycle either. And coming from such an ‘advanced’ society as Tokyo’s I was shocked.

    http://blog.dcdomain.org/2008/03/weekend-in-tokyo-part-1-of-2.html
    “Odaiba
    The island the Big Sight sits on has an interesting history that I won’t bother repeating here. I’m not sure if garbage was used as landfill material, but there is mention on the web of landfills nearby Odaiba. I’ve made a big deal about how clean Tokyo seems and how much they recycle, but I was disappointed to find out that they bury their plastic rather than washing and recycling it. If you care enough to read about Tokyo’s garbage treatment, check out this informative Japan Times article.”

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fd20071007pb.html

  17. MikeC-NJ March 25, 2009 at 8:10 am

    The population difference only makes it that much more important for NYC to be doing it.
    They could either make excuses or they can make it happen. They have raised taxes several times for other projects that they deemed important.
    I also didn\’t realize the window was so small to voice my opinion about this? If nothing was said 2 years ago, then don\’t ever bother saying anything again? Wow, I wonder how any kind of progress has ever been made in this country with statements like that. Oh yeah, I know, it\’s because your wrong, and it\’s never too late to change things.

  18. erinanyc March 24, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I did a joint project with the nyc dept of sanitation in college exploring the limits of their recycling program. essentially, it is NOT laziness that prevents the city from expanding the program, it is the sheer fact that it would be so expensive to pay for the facilities alterations and extra man power needed to support it that the department would have to submit a proposal for a budget increase that would cause a massive outcry in the public. sure, everyone wants better recycling options until it raises their taxes. and while it\’s very nice that oakland westchester have successful programs, comparing those cities in terms of not only population but physical space limitations is like comparing central park to your front yard.

  19. crackgerbal March 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    wow how frustrating. I understand the cities point of view since it does cost more, but im sure the residents of NYC would happily pay for the extra cost of recycling the containers. In the mean time, since the city won’t change its stance any time soon, I would suggest just not buying these plastic containers.

    If you want more reasons not to use plastics like these check out my latest blog post, reasons to stop using plastic bottles.

  20. sparky March 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Um, hello? Where have you been? NYC has NEVER recycled anything other than #1 and #2 PET bottles (and milk cartons, but that\’s another story). This is not exactly news. Incidentally, the DOS & DEP websites explain this stance. If there was a time to mention this it would have been about two years ago as commodity prices took off and the city had more money to institute a wider-ranging program. Complaining now just looks silly, not to mention wasteful–you should have checked what could be recycled as municipalities usually have different programs.

  21. Mike C-NJ March 24, 2009 at 9:02 am

    The town I live in, Oakland NJ, will accept any number from 1 to 7.
    NYC is slacking.

  22. aboutaboyandhisbriefs March 23, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    i am quite shocked and disappointed that we arent recycling everything possible including these plastics. until then ill keep my eyes open at my local grocery stores.

  23. hjvilanova March 22, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Check out the Westchester County system…they recycle aluminium, glass & plastics together, and then separate them at the recycling center. It must pay or the program wouldn’t be so successful.

  24. jeanX March 20, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Suppose I told you that there is no recycling going on anywhere in the U.S., that it all winds up in a landfill?
    Follow the trucks.You should see trains that go right beside my house.It is simply too expensive to send these to 3rd world
    countries, once recycling started.When you go shopping, please consider this.Take net or cloth bags and stop buying things in plastic.Plastic is a hormone-disrupter, if heated in the MW.It causes cancer.

  25. Yuka Yoneda Yuka Yoneda March 20, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Speaking of the SILLY way that our state operates, did you know that we can’t return bottled water, sports drinks or iced tea to supermarket coin returns? ONLY carbonated beverages are accepted. That means that homeless people, who are the #1 recyclers in the city, pick up tons of water and other non-carbonated water bottles out of the trash only to throw them right back out because they aren’t worth any $. Crazy, right?

    More about the Bigger Better Bottle Bill here and what you can do: http://www.swyyne.com/2008/09/25/the-bigger-better-bottle-bill/

  26. chrisp68 March 20, 2009 at 10:36 am

    It has come down to the $$$ figure. Recyclable have lost their value over the last few months, basically less demand from almighty China. So therefore it is cheaper to just landfill the items instead of sending a second truck all around the city to pick up recyclable.
    But what’s more interesting is why NYC doesn’t have single stream recycling machines at their dump stations. This basically allows for all recyclables to come in together and them sorted out.

    However you all must understand that these materials are not being recycled, but down-cycled. Companies are not reusing the plastics for new bottles. The plastics are lower grade and get made into such products as decking material for homes.

    What I think is most frustrating it that everything come packaged now a days and trucked from one part of the country to the other… that’s the world we live in.

  27. kez.o March 20, 2009 at 9:40 am

    On Saturdays a group will collect and recycle all of your clean plastic containers over at the Park Slope Food Coop on Union St. I\’m not sure what the organization is, or if they\’re there any day other than Saturdays…

  28. SDHO March 19, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    It’s the same story in Minneapolis, and I agree — it’s extremely frustrating. Though I hope someday municipalities will accept more non-bottle plastics more universally, I think there’s a good interim solution in grocers accepting them and sending them to commercial facilities that will handle them. (Many places do this for plastic bags.) I think if grocery stores are selling recyclable material in an area that doesn’t accept that material, they have a duty to provide a way to recycle the material responsibly. Whole Foods (with Recycline) has already started doing this with their “Gimme 5″ program.

  29. Kattia March 19, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I also never knew this !!! My friend saves a lot of her recycling for when she visits he family in Pennsylvania once a month. Now I know what she is saving. I will speak to my super!

  30. angie717 March 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    You would think that in such a major city, which produces tons of waste each day, that recycling would be more important. Laziness just shouldn’t be an excuse to not recycle. Maybe more people should be hired to sort through recyclables; create jobs and be more environmentally responsible at the same time. I’m from Baton Rouge and we definitely recycle here!

  31. marjorie March 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    That is very frustrating. I can\’t honestly say however that I think every New Yorker is capable of remembering to/caring to sort their plastic appropriately, those that even recycle in the first place. It seems to me that the problem is that NYC is not willing to sort out the incorrect plastics, which is confusing – don\’t they already have to sort everything anyway? If 90% of plastic bottles and jugs are PET and HDPE then 10% are not. So they\’re still sorting unnecessarily, but the way it is now they are sorting because of their own bad system rather than New Yorker\’s mistakes (which, if they told people to look for the numbers 1 & 2, would ideally be minimized). My conclusion: ridiculous bureaucratic logic at work.

  32. Esser March 19, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    If you find this issue frustrating, complain to the NYC government and let them know. Visit the link above to give NYC your two-cents, Copy and paste the message below or write your own response and tell the how you feel. Watch your word count, plastic is not the only thing they don’t have time for. 150 word limit.

    VOICE YOUR OPINION WHERE IT COUNTS.

    I learned that the NYC government WON’T TAKE ANY PLASTIC EXCEPT PLASTIC BOTTLES, even easily recyclable #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE) plastic! PLEASE reevaluate the long-term consequences of this outdated policy. How are recycling measures supposed to reach any type of scale if it is difficult for people to figure out what is recyclable and not.

    This is ridiculous! In Oakland, one can recycle anything with a number on it by dumping it in a gray bin. This, overall, reduces the need for normal trash pick up. The gray bin is taken out every couple of days, while the big trash is taken out once every 2 weeks. Oakland also has green trashcans for compost trash.

    Come on NYC! With forward thinking, your trash program will be MORE affordable, and MORE responsible. There is an ‘i’ in responsible. NYC, GET IT TOGETHER.

  33. Mike Chino Mike Chino March 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Living in San Francisco, I forget how much I take these things for granted! If you think New York is bad, my experience with Southern California has been downright shocking – it’s virtually impossible to find any recycling receptacles whatsoever, let alone one that will accept all types of plastic.

  34. Jason Sahler Jason Sahler March 19, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    How are recycling measures supposed to reach any type of scale if we make it so difficult for people to figure out what is recyclable and not. I want everyone to be conscious of what they are buying and what they are throwing away, that is really the only solution, but if you have to be extra careful of what your are recycling, I am worried that people will take the lazy way out and just throw it away. They should bring stuff back up to you if it can be recycled and you put it in the trash.

  35. MoriahJS March 19, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    It IS beyond stupid. While I haven’t lived in NYC since 2005, I’m currently in New Jersey (yes, I’ll take your pity now) and we’re forced to recycle or else be slapped with fines. We don’t have to sort our plastics–as far as I know anyway, since we don’t, and we even mix them in with metals and glass in one bin as per public works regulations, and nobody’s gotten on our case. So say what you will about Jersey (and I’d agree with a lot of it), but gosh darn it, we got one leg up on New York in that regard!

  36. anneawong March 19, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    This is ridiculous! I live in Oakland, where I can recycle anything with a number on it by dumping it in the gray can outside. Ever since I started recycling, I’ve come to realize that I take that out every couple of days…. while my big trash gets taken out once every 2 weeks or so. The city was also nice enough to provide green trash cans for compost trash.
    It is so convenient that there’s no excuse not to do it. Come on NY!

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