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Recycling Facts

New York City has no landfills or incinerators, yet residents produce 12,000 tons of waste every day. What happens when you throw something away?

In reality, there is no "away".

Our discards are buried in the ground, burned or recycled into new products. NYC's non-recyclable waste is sent to landfills in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. Much of Manhattan's waste is incinerated across the Hudson River, in New Jersey. Paper waste that is properly separated from regular garbage is recycled locally or is processed for further recycling overseas. Glass, metal and plastics collected at the curbside are sent to New Jersey, where they are processed and sent to various recycling markets.

Waste in the United States

  • The United States produces 70% of the world's solid waste.
  • 80% of US products are used once and then thrown away.
  • 43% of dumped or burned municipal discards, by weight, consists of packaging and containers, or disposable products such as paper or plastic plates, cups, diapers, junk mail, trash bags, tissue paper and towels.

Waste in New York City

  • New York City residents currently recycle only about 17% of their total waste--half of what they could be recycling under the current program.
  • 7.5% of our waste stream consists of plastic film such as supermarket bags.
  • Clothing and textiles make up 5.7% of our waste.

Does Recycling Work?

  • Recycling is a vital component of NYCs 20-year plan to handle our waste in an environmentally sensible, economically viable manner.
  • Paper recycling makes money for NYC, netting $7.5 million after the costs of collection, though almost half of our paper is still thrown in the garbage.
  • Exporting our garbage to other communities cost New York City taxpayers $290 million in 2007.
  • The cost of exporting our waste alone is expected to rise $5.7 million in 2008. This does not include the cost of collection.

Waste Less, Breathe More

  • Diesel trucks carry Manhattan's garbage 7.8 million miles every year. That's the equivalent of driving more than 312 times around the earth!
  • Landfills are responsible for 36% of all methane emissions in the US, one of the most potent contributors to global warming.

Close the Loop: Buy Recycled

  • Using recycled materials to make new products saves energy and other resources, reduces greenhouse gases and industrial pollution, and curbs deforestation and damage to ecosystems.
  • There are more than 4,500 recycled-content products available.
  • More than 90 percent of printing and writing paper still comes from virgin tree fiber