Recycling waste materials is generally good regardless of where you live, but sometimes what you think is recyclable and therefore throw into the garbage bin may instead do more harm than good to the environment and the waste management facilities. There are things that may appear recyclable but actually aren’t, and then there are real recyclable waste which often get disposed of improperly. Every municipality has its own rules regulating the practice, so make sure to check your local recycling website. And now here is how to recycle in NYC.

What are the recyclables?

Don’t be aspirational recyclers, the kind of people who put a lot of things into the recycling bin just because they believe/think everything is recyclable. Take a look at the following table to get an idea of what is acceptable.

NYC Recycle Table
NYC Recycle Table


  • Rigid plastic is mostly plastic resin and inflexible
  • Pizza boxes must be separated from their soiled liners and plastic supporters first before they are ready for recycling.
  • Paper cups must be clean and empty to be acceptable; plastic lids are considered rigid plastic

What are not recyclable?

Let us start with electronics. A lot of electronic products including computers, cell phones, power tools, cameras, television, and even electric razors cannot be recycled. The manufacturers are, however, required by law to accept and recycle the electronics. A list of electronic equipment manufacturers registered in the state can be found in the official website of New York Department of Environmental Conservation, under the Electronic Waste Recycling page. You can also take your electronics to SAFE (Solvents, Automotive, Flammables, and Electronics) Disposal Events or Special Drop-Off Locations in all five boroughs.

Here is a list of things NOT ACCEPTED by waste management facilities in NYC:

  • Paper attached with plastic coating or heavy wax material such as candy wrappers and take out containers
  • Soft or soiled paper including tissues, paper towels, and napkins
  • Batteries and all devices covered under electronics disposal ban
  • Printer cartridges
  • All glass items excluding jars and bottles
  • Window blinds
  • Butane gas lighters and cigarette lighters
  • VHS tapes, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs
  • Pens and markers
  • Cables, cords, hoses, wires, and similar items known as “tanglers”
  • All kinds of containers filled with corrosive or dangerous chemicals
  • Rigid plastic containing disposable razors or medical sharps
  • Foam and flexible plastic items for examples food service containers and sport balls


  • Hardcover books (school books) must be recycled in accordance to school books recycling procedures.
  • Film plastics such as wrappers and plastic shopping bags are not recyclable. You can bring them to participating businesses/stores for recycling.
  • Please do not put your recyclables inside a plastic bag when you throw them into a recycle bin. The plastic itself is a trash that must be disposed of in a separate bin.
  • Dirty diapers are not recyclable. These products are made of various materials, most often multiple types of plastics.


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