What should and should not go in the bin

By Michael Turton

In March, the Cold Spring Highway Department collected 63 tons of trash as part of its weekly curbside pickup. The haul was transported to the Wheelabrator facility in Peekskill, which charges a “tipping fee” of $77 per ton for disposal. The cost to the village, including a 2 percent environmental surcharge, was nearly $5,000, or about $60,000 a year, not including wages and transport.

Glass, aluminum, paper and plastic can be recycled. (Photo by M. Turton)
Glass, aluminum, paper and plastic can be recycled. (Photo by M. Turton)

During the same month, 12 tons of recyclables were picked up in Cold Spring. Those materials were taken to ReCommunity in Beacon, which has no tipping fee.

Had those 12 tons been discarded as trash, the additional cost to the village would be $11,000 annually. Had the figures been reversed — 12 tons of trash and 63 tons of recyclables per month — the village would save about $48,000 per year in tipping fees.

A primer

While some environmental challenges such as fracking or disposal of nuclear waste are beyond the ability of individuals to address, reducing trash relies on individual effort and habits. With Earth Day approaching on April 22, it is an appropriate time for village, town and city residents and families to reexamine their recycling habits.

Sorting paper and cardboard at the Beacon facility (photo provided)
Sorting paper and cardboard at the Beacon facility (photo provided)

In Cold Spring, “single stream” recycling is used — meaning that all acceptable materials can be placed at the curb in the same container. Recyclables are picked up early Friday morning and can be put out at the curb the night before.

What can be recycled

The following materials are accepted by ReCommunity:

  • Glass, including bottles and jars, food containers and beverage containers
  • Cans, including aluminum and other metal cans, loose jar lids, steel bottle caps and foil
  • Paper, including newspapers, magazines and brochures; corrugated cardboard and paper bags; paper towel rolls, paperback books; cartons; greeting cards; junk mail; beverage containers; phone books; dry food cartons; paperboard boxes; file folders and office paper
  • Plastics, including #1, #2, #4, #5 and #7 food and beverage containers, including bottles, jars, jugs and other rigid plastic containers (Check the bottom of the container for a number.)

What can’t be recycled

  • No plastic bags — they are considered the worst offenders in the recycling bin, especially if wet or dirty. Grocery bags can often be recycled at supermarkets.
  • No materials should be placed in plastic bags.
  • No shredded paper; the pieces are too small to sort
  • No scrap metal, which can damage the recycling equipment
  • No hazardous waste, including paint, automotive fluids, pesticides and batteries
  • No diapers and bio-hazardous waste, including syringes, needles and sanitary products
  • No non-recyclable plastics, including plastic lids and Styrofoam
  • No flattened containers; the sorting machines mistake them for paper
  • No caps or lids should be left on bottles or jars. Loose metal lids can be recycled but plastic lids and caps from glass bottles and jars cannot.
  • No liquids. Containers should be rinsed prior to being placed in the bin.
  • No ceramics or non-recyclable glass, including china, dishes, mirrors, light bulbs, Pyrex, porcelain and window glass
  • No frozen food containers such as the paperboard containers for frozen pizza

Recycling trivia

  • According to ReCommunity, 54 percent of the trash produced in the U.S. ends up in landfills, 25 percent is recycled, 12 percent is incinerated and nine percent is composted.
  • Recycling aluminum uses less energy than making new aluminum and the material can be recycled indefinitely. The average aluminum can contains 40 percent recycled material.
  • Paper can be recycled five to seven times before its fibers break down.
  • Glass can also be recycled indefinitely. Five pounds of old glass bottles produce five pounds of new glass bottles.
  • Plastics are usually “down-cycled,” meaning they are most often used to make products other than their original purpose.

More detailed information on recycling, including a video of the process, can be found at RecyclingSimplified.com. Much of the video was shot at ReCommunity’s Beacon facility.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Turton, who has been a reporter for The Current since its founding in 2010, moved to Philipstown from his native Ontario in 1998. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Cold Spring government, features