Find out what you can and can't recycle in New York City

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:11AM
Think you know what can be recycled in New York City? Take this quiz.

If Earth Month has you thinking about your environmental impact, one of the easiest ways you can do that is to learn what you can recycle rather than throw away.

New Yorkers produce about 24 million pounds of waste each day, recycling only about half of what could be recycled.

When it comes to recycling, like with most activities, New Yorkers have plenty of options. The list of things that can go in your bin is long, and there are still ways to recycle some things that can't. The next time you go to throw something in the trash, stop and make sure it can't be recycled in some shape or form with this handy guide.


New York City has two major categories of recyclables. The first is mixed paper and cardboard. The other is metal, glass, plastic and cartons.

Mixed paper/cardboard

You can recycle any type of paper/cardboard on this list, including:

Pizza boxes
Egg cartons (cardboard)

Envelopes (including window envelopes)
Printer paper (including with staples)

Do not recycle candy wrappers, take-out containers or anything with leftover food on it.

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Metal, Glass, Plastic and cartons

After you wash off any food particles, you can recycle most plastics, metals, glass and cartons, including:

Food and beverage cartons
Plastic bottles (with their caps and lids!)
Knives (Tape it up in cardboard and label it as sharp)
Metal pots and pans
Other metals (including large items like furniture)
Plastic toys (but not their batteries)


Just because something can't go in your recycling bin doesn't mean it can't be reused. These programs will up your recycling game.

Plastic bags

Plastic bags are the biggest source of waste in the city, but recycling them can be as easy as going to the store. Most grocery stores are required by law to have an area where you can recycle plastic bags.

You can also take it one step further by pledging to make use of reusable bags, mugs and bottles.


If you're looking to get rid of used clothes, shoes, linens, handbags and certain other items, you can drop them off at certain GrowNYC weekly GreenMarkets in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

Food scraps

Yes, you can compost in New York City! Certain GrowNYC weekly GreenMarkets in all five boroughs accept food scraps. Meat is not accepted but fruits, vegetables and many other types of food are.

Or if you want to do it yourself you can learn how to compost in a small space.


Not only is it better for the Earth to recycle, but you can be fined for throwing away electronics. The good news is there are plenty of locations around the city that accept old electronics. Here's where you can drop them off.

Check the location and item details before you go. Certain types of electronics, such as batteries, have special locations.

Hard-to-recycle items

For items that don't fit any of these categories, Terracycle may be the right option. They offer specific recycling programs for items like Solo cups and binders.

And sometimes, as with hardcover books, the best option is to just find somewhere to donate your items.

Looking for information about a specific item? Go to the city's "ZeroWaste" site and click on the "How to Get Rid Of" section.
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