Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Recycling: A dramatic change!

Large recycling bin used for single-stream recycling

When I was a girl, there was no recycling in my NYC neighborhood.  Everything disposed of was thrown into the trash and ultimately went to the landfill.  I used to imagine an invention where I could insert a used piece of paper in the top, and out the bottom would come a clean, recycled piece of paper.

In the last year, I’ve noticed an explosion of recycling efforts around the country.  Suddenly, single-stream recycling is everywhere, and many people can now recycle the majority of their waste. 

In my town, we can now recycle an incredible array of items.  Take a look at everything that can be recycled.   

Wanting to find out the limits of our new recycling, I sent queries: 

1.  Could I recycle the plastic bags with zippers that sheets are sold in? YES
2.  What about plastic burritos wrappers? YES
3.  granola bar wrappers? YES
4.  Al foil backed paper that enclose some individual tea bags? YES
5.  What about if there's burned on food from grilling on Al foil? STILL OK TO PUT IN

Here is a great article that describes how the recycling facility sorts and prepares for selling the single-stream recycling that is collected.  It's actually cheaper for trash haulers to bring single-stream recycling to the recycling facility than it is for them to dump it as trash.  When in doubt about whether an item is recyclable or not, it is best to recycle it.

If you have single-stream recycling in your neighborhood, make sure you are taking full advantage and are recycling everything that is allowable.

In the past few months, many households in my neighborhood have gone from having a huge trash container and a small recycling bin, to having a huge recycling container and just a small amount of trash for the landfill. 

In NYC public schools and many other schools around the country, students can now recycle metal & foil; glass bottles & jars; rigid plastics; milk & juice cartons and drink boxes and paper in their school cafeterias.   The NYC neighborhood where I grew up now recycles paper, cardboard, metal, glass, plastic (rigid plastics) & cartons (for food and beverages).

It’s been amazing to witness this monumental shift from large scale dumping to large-scale recycling.

It’s important to remember, however, that items that are recycled still incur energy and pollution costs to the environment from manufacturing and transport.   Of the classic 3R's, reducing and reusing are preferred to recycling.

(This post was shared on Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop.)


  1. Hi Lisa,
    Raising awareness of single stream recycling and proper recycling procedures is so important. Like you, I have noticed an increase in the number of easy to use and prominent recycling receptacles. And of course I agree that reducing and reusing are preferable to recycling. Thank you for sharing this valuable post with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop. I'm pinning and tweeting this too!

  2. Hi Deborah, I hope this trend towards increased recycling continues and that we see more recycling in restaurants, train stations and other public facilities. Thanks so much for sharing my post!


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