What Goes Around: NYC Recycles Plastic, Metal & Glass

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ron Gonen, NYC's first-ever deputy commissioner of sanitation, recycling, and sustainability, joins us weekly in April to talk about recycling in NYC. This week: news that the city will now recycle all rigid plastics, along with metal and glass -- including yogurt containers and iced coffee cups.

According to the city's Sanitation department, "Toys, Plastic Yogurt and Coffee Cups, Food Containers and All Rigid Plastic" is recyclable, and starting next month, the city will be expanding the organics recycling program to parts of Staten Island. The full list of what has changed can be found here.


Ron Gonen

Comments [58]

James Mc from Bay Ridge

Re: Paul Berk's question:
"Sorry for the non sequiter. I was wondering how much used cooking oil NY restaurants dispose of, and what happens to it?"

Most restaurants get their used cooking oil picked up free of charge and it is made into biodiesel fuel. Usually the companies (one is Tristate Biodiesel which my employer uses) will provide the containers and pickup free of charge. There are also a few businesses that pickup up the oil for processing into animal feed, but my perception is that this is a declining market share.

Someone asked about the plastic coffee lids, these are recyclable right now with the new changes. They are usually #6 plastic and were not recyclable previously.

Juice and milk cartons go in with the plastics, etc. not the paper.

One easy way to think of the new recycling is that now virtually all plastics are included with the notable exception of the broad categories of plastic "wrap" (bags, saran wrap), "tubes" (toothpaste), and foam ("Styrofoam").

Apr. 28 2013 12:06 PM
Ed from Larchmont

I'm glad we recycle our trash. But we still kill our children. I wish it were the other way around.

Apr. 25 2013 04:34 PM
Amy from Manhattan

John, I'm glad to hear Fanwood's recycling is so thorough! In NYC, we do have recycling events several times a year for various things; the latest mailing I got about these is for "SAFE Disposal" (solvents, automotive, flammables, electronics). It includes regular fluorescent & CFL bulbs, along w/a lot of other things. There are also occasional events for taking expired/unused medications. There are links for these things at

Apr. 25 2013 10:58 AM
Jack from Manhattan

Will it still be acceptable to use blue and clear plastic bags for recycling rather than the blue and green City containers? I live in a two family brownstone. I find the bags to be cleaner and more efficient.

Is there a problem with crushing plastic bottles and containers [also waxed cartons & aluminum cans]? I do this to save space in my compact kitchen. Increasing the items to be recycled under the new rules will increase the need for compacting.

Apr. 25 2013 10:43 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Dee, the bristles on toothbrushes probably aren't recyclable. Maybe you could cut them off. Or use Preserve toothbrushes (& other products;, which are made from #5 plastics (incl. yogurt containers!)--the co. supplies prepaid envelopes to send them back in & has even started to sell them in packages you can use to send them back for free.

Apr. 25 2013 10:39 AM

What can we, as a city and nation, do to require all packagers to use only material that is "recyclable?"

Apr. 25 2013 10:33 AM
Hallie from Brooklyn

What about staples in paper? I work in an architecture office and I see (myself included) people throwing stacks of paper into recycling that are stapled together, all the time. In fact, paper that goes into the recycling bin rarely ever does NOT have staples in it. Will it not be recycled if staples are found?

Apr. 25 2013 10:28 AM
Dianna M from Chelsea

I always understood that caps on plastic bottles are of a different plastic than the bottle itself which is why they could not be recycled together. Also, metal caps on glass bottles. Now Sanitation is saying its OK to keep the caps on. I visited a recycling plant many years ago and people were sitting on a conveyor belt line, removing the caps. Now that the caps CAN be recycled, shouldnt people be encouraged to recycle the caps separately to cut down on the costs of separating them? A second question out of curiosity - What happens to the bottles that are collected by homeless people?

Apr. 25 2013 10:27 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Bubble wrap can be recycled at supermarkets along w/plastic bags, & so can plastic wrap! I called the Office of Recycling Outreach & Education (OROE, 212 676 2081) some time ago & asked.

Apr. 25 2013 10:27 AM
Elizabeth from 10036

Please ask how people in apt. bldgs get their garbage from their apt. to the garbage shoot without using plastic bags. Thank you.

Apr. 25 2013 10:25 AM

About the plastic grocery bags: After lots of trial and error, I have a system:
1. Several reusable nylon bags.
2. Keep a small stock of "bad" plastic bags to use as garbage bags.
3. I keep a mental tally of when I'm running low on garbage bags, and get a few more from supermarket as I need them.

Is there a way to keep household non-recyclable trash in a can, and dump the can into the "trash" bin in front of my apartment?

Apr. 25 2013 10:25 AM
Kendra from greenpoint

Any progress on city-wide food scrap recycling?

Apr. 25 2013 10:25 AM
Jeremy from NYC

Why are we not getting rid of plastic bags altogether? Didn't SF do that? I was in Ireland and they charged ~50c for them and thus everyone carries bags.

Apr. 25 2013 10:25 AM

Wow. What a thorough well-versed guest. Kudos to Brian/WNYC for leading with this story. Although I'm in withdrawal without the usual idiot wind terrorism blatherings. NOT.

Apr. 25 2013 10:24 AM
John from Fanwood, NJ

In Fanwood NJ we have a recycling center where we drop off our recycling. We can bring plastic bags, and we can also bring efl bulbs. It's surprising that our 1 square mile town can do what NYC can't.

Apr. 25 2013 10:24 AM
jeff from chelsea

what about plastic cutlery?

Apr. 25 2013 10:24 AM
Kf from Manhattan

2 more questions:
1. What about containers for pasta - like from Trader Joe's - they don't have any number on them (the thin rigid salad ones have numbers on them). Are these recyclable?
2. If the new recycling center won't open until September, what are they going to do with all the stuff they are collecting now?

Apr. 25 2013 10:23 AM
MikeInBrklyn from Clinton Hill

Great that plastics will be recycled. But at what point will the focus move to the reduction/elimination of plastic in waste stream. Every item on store shelves today has some piece of place attached to it.

Apr. 25 2013 10:23 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Yes, unscrew the caps, but then put the caps in w/the rest of the recycling! Up till now that only worked for metal caps, but now it goes for plastic ones too!

Apr. 25 2013 10:23 AM
josephine schiele from manhattan

i work in a large office building in times square, and i am sure that nothing here is recycled. there is a cafeteria with no recycle bins for anything. why have businesses been exempt from recycling?

Apr. 25 2013 10:23 AM

please ask about medicine containers!! sadly we have too many of thesae

Apr. 25 2013 10:22 AM
Julie from Union Square

With regards to paper, can we recycle paper coffee cups, pizza boxes, and other paper products that we previously couldn't because of food waste left on them? Is waxed paper recyclable? Please clarify the rules for paper.

Thank you!

Apr. 25 2013 10:22 AM
Neil from Brooklyn

How clean do recycled glasses and plastics need to be? Yogurt containers can be particularly difficult to clean. I've personally outgrown this...but I always wondered about the limes in Corona bottles.

Apr. 25 2013 10:22 AM
Dee from park slope

Are toothbrushes recyclable - so important considering the numbers used.

Apr. 25 2013 10:22 AM
Joanne from Brooklyn 11238

Recycling Pick-up Frequency - Will DOS now increase the frequency of Recycling Pick-ups to accommodate the higher quantity.

Apr. 25 2013 10:22 AM
Alan from Elmont NY


Can you please contact Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and convince her to follow your lead? Sanitation District #6 STINKS! they only recycle #1 and #2, and NO PAPER (except bundled newsprint).


Apr. 25 2013 10:21 AM
victoria from brooklyn

are recycling bags very important and better to use than plastic bags?

Apr. 25 2013 10:21 AM

What about stuffing other types of used plastics into plastic or aluminum containers, such as milk containers or soda cans inorder to save space in our recycling bins? How does that get separated out?

Apr. 25 2013 10:21 AM
Tracy from NYC

Where can buildings obtain new stickers and magnets to affix to recycling bins and in the hallways to inform residents of the new policy? The current stickers with graphics about what can be recycled are now obsolete. Thanks!

Apr. 25 2013 10:20 AM
Tom from UWS

So, neither of you heard marjorie's question: she does not live in a hi=rise, she lives "in a small building" and needs to buy blue bags herself. "I hope that answers Marjorie's question" was a vain hope, indeed!

Apr. 25 2013 10:20 AM
Dempsey Rice from Brooklyn

Can he define rigid plastics?? Are the plastic containers that berries come in considered rigid? What numbers are we looking for on the plastics or is the city taking ALL plastics except for plastic bags?

Apr. 25 2013 10:20 AM
Jessa Fisher from Brooklyn

Will the city install recycling bins everywhere there is a garbage bin? So much of what goes into public garbage bins in the subway, etc, can be recycled....

Apr. 25 2013 10:20 AM

even trader joes boxes of juice, soy milk and cow milk?

Apr. 25 2013 10:19 AM
Sara from Queens

Do hard plastic disposable plates that come in packs of 100 have to be recycled?

Apr. 25 2013 10:18 AM
Jon from Manhattan

How does one recycle paper envelopes with bubble wrap linings?

Apr. 25 2013 10:18 AM

What about the medicine and chewing gum "blister packs", half plastic, half aluminum?

Apr. 25 2013 10:17 AM
John Tucker from bk

Please comment about Tetra paks: soup, milk and juice boxes! thx!

Apr. 25 2013 10:17 AM
PAUL BERK from Prospect Heights

Sorry for the non sequiter. I was wondering how much used cooking oil NY restaurants dispose of, and what happens to it?

Apr. 25 2013 10:17 AM
E Vauchee from Brooklyn

My recycling is on Monday. Often there are holiday Mondays so no recycling takes place. Couldn't there be a fairer way so Monday people don't always have to wait 2 weeks? Thank you.

Apr. 25 2013 10:16 AM
Sara from Washington Heights

What about juice boxes and boxes containing ready made soup?

Also, regarding the question about baby food pouches -- what is Terra Cycle (sp?)??? Sounds intriguing!!

Apr. 25 2013 10:16 AM
Paul from Bronx

Please list most examples of "non rigid " plastics

Apr. 25 2013 10:16 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Really? Mayor Bloomberg did that? All by himself? I thought there was a bill passed by the City Council a few years ago, & I don't remember Bloomberg's being that big a booster of it, even though he signed it.

I did think it wasn't going to go into effect next year, so I'm very glad to hear it's happening earlier. Don't know who should get the credit for that.

Apr. 25 2013 10:15 AM
bbob from 10014

This is terrific news! Curious: Where do the Ziploc bags go now? Can they be recycled with the other plastic bags?
And also, does the Post Office have any regulations about recyling? I see so much stuff getting tossed there.

Apr. 25 2013 10:15 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Same question as IC from Manhattan: Juice and milk cartons?

Apr. 25 2013 10:15 AM
Joshua from Brooklyn

Why is it we need to wash out recycling exactly? Seems to me this stuff gets chopped up into chips then melted down to make new plastic? How can a little yogurt or whatever hamper the process??


Apr. 25 2013 10:14 AM
resident alien from Williamsburg

How can you recycle plastic lined cartons, like milk cartons or OJ cartons? And should you unscrew the cap?

Apr. 25 2013 10:14 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Does this go for Westchester?

Apr. 25 2013 10:13 AM
Paul Taylor from New York, New York

What's wrong with putting something EXTRA in the dishwasher? There's always room for one more thing. It takes no extra energy and helps keep the rats at bay,

Apr. 25 2013 10:12 AM
Robert from brooklyn

What about plastic tops from water bottles, plastic drink bottles, milk cartons, etc?

Apr. 25 2013 10:11 AM
caitlin from 11215

what about to-go coffee cup tops?

Apr. 25 2013 10:11 AM
Kevin from Chelsea

I had been recycling yogurt containers and shampoo bottles already... Whoops. Is there any harm in being a little overzealous in recycling? Can the non-conforming items be easily removed?

Apr. 25 2013 10:10 AM
Nancy from Manhattan

What about the clear plastic boxes such as berries are sold in, and fancy salads, and those clear plastic clamshells some delis now pack sandwiches in -- unless you tell them not to ;-)

Apr. 25 2013 10:10 AM
IC from Manhattan

are juice & milk cartons still with the plastic recycling or paper?

Apr. 25 2013 10:10 AM
Sara from Bushwick

fruit containers? Like the ones for strawberries?

Apr. 25 2013 10:09 AM

Please address the bottle/can deposit program, which in an urban area such as NYC, unduly burdens both consumers as well as retailers in a number of ways.

-Most stores in the city just don't have the space to deal with accepting bottle returns, and, many, if not most, simply don't.

-Likewise, few residents have the luxury of sufficient space for storing their bottles and cans, and even fewer the time to deal with the hassle of returning them. And it seems that most don't.

-Thus, the .05 deposit on each and every bottle and can (which, over time, can add-up to quite a considerable sum) is, effectively, a disguised /tax/ upon the city's citizens. And a rather /regressive/ one at that.
- Retailers are required to give 80% of unclaimed deposits to the City. What is the compliance rate? How aggressive/successful has the City been in collecting these funds?

-One-gallon water bottles do not require deposit but three-liter ones do. Yet, the return machines cannot accept the three-liter size bottles.

So, first, you have to wait on line to feed all the other bottles and cans, one-at-a-time, into the machines. Then, you have wait on line a /second time/, at the customer service desk, to return the 3-liter bottles. This amount-to an excessive, completely unreasonable, unfair burden placed upon residents of the city (visitors too).

And why the discrepancy? One-gallon and three-liter bottles are close enough to each in other size that it would seem only logical for them to share the same deposit status.

Apr. 25 2013 10:08 AM
Kf from Manhattan

Hi, Brian. Could you ask Mr. Ronan if they will actually recycle these other hard plastics, or if items will get thrown out after the sorting process if they are not a 1, 2, or 5 (for example)? Thanks!

Apr. 25 2013 10:07 AM

these have been recycled outside nyc for years or decades.

what about plastic bags?

Apr. 25 2013 10:07 AM
Jennifer from Midtown

OMG, are they about to announce that #5 plastics can now be recycled?! I am so sick and tired of saving up and then hauling my #5s every month down to the Union Square Whole Foods, which the only place in the city that I am aware of where #5 plastics are accepted. (Also, I am quite sure that half of the city never even knew yogurt containers could not be recycled.) This is a huge deal!!!

Apr. 25 2013 10:05 AM

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