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Since the launch of HRPK’s Park Over Plastic initiative, we have rolled out 25 new recycling bins throughout the Park to encourage Park users to recycle responsibly. There is often confusion around what can and cannot be recycled in NYC. Are all plastics recyclable? What items go in each bin?

To help our community recycle with confidence and keep bins from being contaminated with the wrong items, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks for best recycling practices in New York City.

Let’s Sort It Out

New York City has a source-separated recycling system. That means we must sort our waste into four categories before it is collected by the Department of Sanitation. Luckily, most bins are color-coded to help us remember what goes where.

A Park visitor throws a plastic bottle into a recycling bin

The Blue Bins accept a combination of rigid plastic, metal and glass.

These different materials are sorted out later in the recycling process. Examples:

  • Plastic bottles
  • Rigid plastic food containers and packaging
  • Cleaning solution bottles
  • Condiment containers
  • Rigid plastic toys with batteries removed
  • Empty aerosol cans and lids
  • Metal cans
  • Metal hangers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Glass bottles and jars

What’s not accepted in Blue Bins:

  • Plastic bags and food wrappers
  • Styrofoam
  • Paper of any kind

Brown compost bins to throw food scraps

The Brown Bins accept compostable materials.

Hudson River Park’s Community Compost Program features seven locations throughout the Park where you can drop off food scraps. Examples:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags without staples
  • Rice, pasta, bread and cereal
  • Egg and nut shells
  • Pits
  • Dried and cut flowers
  • House plants
  • Potting soil
  • Soiled brown paper products

What’s not accepted in Brown Bins:

  • Diapers or animal waste
  • Meat, fish or bones
  • Greasy food, fats, oils or dairy

The Green Bins accept mixed paper and cardboard (not accepted in public HRPK bins).

If it came from a tree and is unsoiled, put it here. Examples:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Paperboard egg cartons
  • Mail envelopes
  • Paper bags
  • Wrapping paper
  • Receipts
  • Paper cups with wax lining
  • Food and shoe boxes
  • Unsoiled parts of pizza boxes

What not to place in Green Bins:

  • Soft paper like paper towels, napkins and tissues
  • Paper with heavy wax or plastic coating
  • Hardcover books

The trifecta of trash, compost and recycling bins throughout Hudson River Park

The Black Bins accept all landfill waste, meaning trash.

Place all non-recyclable and soiled items here. Examples:

  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic bags and food wrappers
  • Straws
  • Flexible plastic like tubes and pouches
  • Animal waste
  • Diapers
  • Greasy food waste and meat
  • Plastic lined paper cups (shiny and smooth inner lining)
  • Soft paper like paper towels, napkins and tissues
  • Sports balls

Quick Tips

Wash out plastic items coated in food or oil before tossing them in the recycling bin.

Food contamination can disqualify otherwise recyclable plastics from being sorted and reconstituted, which means these items end up headed straight for the landfill. It might seem silly to wash something you won’t use again, but in doing so, you are increasing the likelihood of that material being properly recycled.

A Hudson River Park scientist examines some of the plastic found during a recent audit

Double check the bin before you dispose of your item.

Throughout Hudson River Park, you can find black landfill bins; blue recycling bins for plastic, metal and glass; and brown compost bins. Different types of bins will often be strategically placed near each other for convenience, so please choose the correct bin for your waste. Got an empty water bottle or food container? Blue bin. Plastic bag or dirty diapers? Black bin. Banana peels or apple cores? Brown bin. Please be especially mindful of what goes in the recycling and compost bins — cross contamination can send the entire bulk to the landfill.

Challenges to Consider

You’ve probably heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and maybe you’ve heard “refuse” in there too. When it comes to minimizing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, each one of these actions plays an important role. Recycling is a significant piece of the puzzle, as we’re consuming more plastic than ever before. In 2017, the United States generated 35.37 million tons of plastic waste, but unfortunately, only 8% (2.96 million tons) was recycled.

The processing of this 8% depends in part on recycling markets, and not every type of plastic is accepted by these markets as desirable raw material. While NYC is better positioned than many American cities to manage recyclables, we still have work to do. This means that even when consumers place their waste in the appropriate receptacle, their plastic jugs, food containers, utensils, etc. may not make it to the stage in the recycling process during which they are broken down to create new material. When these plastics do not get processed and reused, they end up in landfills.

The simplest action to take to mitigate this issue is to shop as if everything were to end up in landfill; avoid purchasing plastic whenever possible, but continue to recycle as necessary. If you must use plastic items, try to find recycled instead of new plastic.

If you’re ready to take a step further in leading a plastic-free lifestyle, check out this extensive blog by author, Beth Terry. There have also been recent updates in policy to help reduce styrofoam and plastic bags in NYC.

Park Over Plastic
Park members of the Estuary Lab work to clear out plastics found in the Hudson River

Hudson River Park is actively taking steps to fight plastic pollution in our waters and the environment. We’re reducing single-use products like beverage bottles and straws from our events and businesses and replacing them with alternative options. While you enjoy a stroll through the Park’s esplanade, take note of some solutions we’ve placed to help reduce waste.