Nearly one-fifth of NYC's waste is recyclable paper! Be sure to recycle all clean paper. Reduce your carbon footprint further by taking your name off of mass mailing lists, reducing catalog waste, opting out of offers for credit cards and insurance and stopping unwanted telephone books--learn how at NYC Zero Waste.
Metal & Metal Appliances
Recycle cans, clean aluminum foil, and “mostly metal” household items with at least 50% metal content. Bulky metal such as shelves and appliances should be placed next to your recycling bins or bags on recycling day (call 311 first for appliances that require CFC removal such as air conditioners and refrigerators). Conserve even more resources by donating reusable metal items. For example, bikes and bike parts can be used by Recycle a Bicycle or Time's UP! to get more New Yorkers on two wheels.
Unbroken bottles and jars are recyclable through NYC's curbside recycling program. Empty and rinse containers and remove, then recycle, metal caps and lids. Recycle natural corks at a ReCORK drop site.
As of April 23, 2013, New Yorkers can recycle all rigid plastics, including yogurt cups, plastic toys (remove batteries before recycling), salad containers, shampoo bottles, plastic furniture and plastic appliances. Learn more.
Gable-top and aseptic containers (think O.J., milk, soy milk, and boxes of soup stock) are included in the City's recycling program. Rinse and place with your glass, metal, and plastic recyclables.
Materials such as clothing and linens represent almost 6% of NYC's waste. Recycle your unwanted textiles at one of GrowNYC’s weekly textile collections at select Greenmarkets. Large apartment buildings can sign up for an in-building program through Wearable Collections or RefashioNYC. If your running shoes are worn completely, you can also recycle them through the Reuse-a-Shoe program, which makes them into athletic surfaces.
4% of the residential waste in our concrete jungle actually comes from yards and green spaces. If you’re lucky enough to have a patch of grass, leave it on the lawn after mowing. Collect fall leaves for compost and be sure to contact the Parks Department for proper removal of any tree prunings and other organic woody debris if you live in Brooklyn or Queens.
Why let your food scraps go to waste? There are several local programs offering composting to turn your coffee grounds, vegetable trimmings and other organic materials into “black gold” to fertilize flowers, vegetables and trees sans harmful chemicals. 45 of GrowNYC's Greenmarkets now accept residential kitchen scraps for composting. Click here to find other community drop-off sites. You may be eligble for Department of Sanitation curbside organics collection, or you can learn to make your own compost at home.
For food that is still edible, find a soup kitchen or food pantry near you. Large volumes of canned food can be donated through the Food Bank for NYC. Contact City Harvest for information on donating large amounts of fresh, perishable and prepared food.
Certain types of paper such as tissues, napkins, food-soiled paper, laminated papers, cups, plates, and take-out containers are not recyclable in NYC. Reduce your use of single-use, disposable items and compost food-soiled napkins and paper towels that are free of toxic cleaners or other harmful chemicals.
New Yorkers discard nearly 2,000 tons of plastic bags every week, not to mention the ones that land in trees and sewers rather than the trash receptacle. The key is to reduce your use of plastic bags. Use bags a second time for shopping, taking out the trash, or cleaning up after the dog. Clean and dry bags can be recycled at large retail stores and chains around the city, thanks to a recent law that requires recycling of plastic film such as shopping bags, dry cleaning bags and newspaper bags. Look for ways to reduce Styrofoam waste by bringing your own to-go cup, buying wisely at the supermarket and asking restaurants to use alternative packaging.
Construction and Demolition (C&D)
Reduce and reuse when you renovate. Save money by buying from and donating to NYC’s building materials reuse center, Big Reuse. Visit their website to view the inventory of items like cabinets, doors, appliances, paint and even deconstruction services.
Although they are a small portion of the waste stream by volume, computers and electronics contribute about 70% of the heavy metals in landfills. New York State Law requires manufacturers of many electronics to collect their products from residents at no charge, and certain electronics are prohibited from residential trash. Consider donating working electronics. If broken, there are many recycling opportunities for these items. Find upcoming collection days on our Recycling Events page, visit NYC Zero Waste for info on manufacturer and retail recycling at locations such as Best Buy, Staples, Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. Recycling is easier than ever with the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s Gowanus E-waste Warehouse, which accepts materials for reuse or recycling, and e-cycleNYC, the city's free program for apartment buildings, and pilot pick-up program for Staten Islanders.
Cell phones are easy to recycle--NY State law requires any store selling cell phones to take them back for recycling. You can also recycle or refurbish your old phone for a cause through many charitable organizations.
Recycle CDs, floppy disks, VHS tapes, etc. by purchasing a Technotrash bin from Green Disk or recycle select media at Best Buy. These materials are also accepted at the Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse with a suggested donation of $0.50 per item.
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)
Most of NYC’s HHW consists of dry cell batteries and water-based paints & adhesives, but also includes oil filters, antifreeze, wet cell batteries, motor oil, fuel, mercury wastes, oil-based solvents, paint, pesticides and fire extinguishers. Whenever possible, avoid buying harmful materials that create disposal hazards.
The NYC Department of Sanitation’s (DNSY) Special Waste Drop-Off Sites accept household and automotive batteries, fluorescent bulbs, mercury thermometers and thermostats, motor oil, transmission fluid, latex paint and passenger car tires. DSNY's annual NYC SAFE Disposal events accept electronics and other potentially harmful household products like batteries, paint, pesticides and medicine. Batteries are also accepted at the Gowanus E-waste Warehouse.
Rechargeable batteries are prohibited from household garbage and can be returned to local stores, which must recycle the same type of rechargeable batteries that they sell. Cell phones and their batteries can be returned to any store that sells these mobile devices. Visit www.RBRC.org to get a free cell phone and rechargeable battery bin for your apartment building. Visit NYC Zero Waste for takeback information for other types of batteries.
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) save energy and last much longer, but contain mercury and should be disposed of responsibly. Get more info on light bulb recycling and find a drop-off site at www.grownyc.org/CFL.
Some local members and partners of the National Community Pharmacists Association accept pharmaceuticals for safe disposal. For more information on safe handling of household medical wastes visit NYC Zero Waste.
Miscellaneous Inorganics and Non-Recyclable Glass
Reuse old windows (see C&D), mirrors and unwanted ceramics where possible.
Many thrift stores and non-profit organizations can help provide good homes for unwanted furniture. Search DonateNYC for options near you. You can also look for takers through Craigslist.org and Freecycle.org.
*All businesses must recycle in NYC. Visit the NYC Recycles page dedicated to businesses, which provides tips and resources for setting up a recycling program. Looking to get rid of reusable items without loading up a landfill, or trying to save money by acquiring used goods? Check out DonateNYC Exchange – a free match-making service for used and surplus goods. This commercial materials exchange helps businesses save money on purchases and/or disposal, while also helping the environment.