Recycling is one easy way we can all help to reduce our impact on the planet. We have a great recycling program here in Onondaga County (OCRRA) but, like all programs, it has its limitations. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what can go in the blue bin and I often find myself unsure about specific items. We may have the best of intentions when we put non-recyclables in the bin, but this contaminates the waste stream which can damage processing equipment or lead to landfill disposal of lots of properly recycled items. You can assist your local recycling efforts by following their rules for accepted items. Here’s what you should keep in mind to properly recycle in Onondaga County in New York State (if you live elsewhere, check your local recycling center’s website for details).
Plastics - You might be tempted to toss any plastic containers in the blue bin, but only a few types are allowed. You can recycle #1 and #2 plastic bottles. The number can be found on the bottom of the container (can someone explain why these numbers are so tiny and hard to read?). Bottles should be emptied, rinsed, and the cap put back on. Note that #1 and #2 plastics that are not bottle- or jug-shaped (i.e., the neck is not smaller than the body) are not recyclable.
You can also recycle #5 plastic widemouth stackable tubs that typically hold butter, cottage cheese, or Cool Whip. The lids to these containers are not recyclable and should be placed in the trash.
Paper - Most paper and cardboard can be recycled, including pizza boxes. Exceptions to this include frozen food boxes, egg cartons, paper plates, paper towels, and any metallic wrapping paper or greeting cards - all of these should be put in the trash. Newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and even softcover books can be recycled in your blue bin.
Other acceptable curbside recycling items are milk and juice cartons, metal cans, and glass jars (labels can be left on).
The following items are recyclable but cannot be placed in your blue bin:
Plastic bags - Drop offs can be found at most grocery stores and big box stores.
Batteries - Drop offs can be found at Wegmans stores and Green Hills Market. You will need to separate button batteries and rechargeables and place them in the proper receptacle.
Fluorescent light bulbs - These contain a small amount of mercury and should not be placed in the trash. You can properly dispose of the small “twirly” type bulbs at select Lowe’s and Home Depot stores. Larger fluorescents can be dropped off at the local hardware stores listed here.
A summary of local recycling rules can be found here. And if you are uncertain about whether a specific item is recyclable, you can easily look it up in the search box on the OCRRA website. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up aerosol cans there (which are recyclable, by the way, as long as they are empty and contained non-hazardous materials).
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