D E C banner
D E C banner

Disclaimer

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has added a link to a translation service developed by Microsoft Inc., entitled Bing Translator, as a convenience to visitors to the DEC website who speak languages other than English.

Additional information can be found at DEC's Language Assistance Page.

How to: Climate Smart Recycling and Composting

Managing Organic Materials

Recycling and Composting
Recycling in Municipal Operations
Recycling in Non-Residential Settings
Recycling in Public Spaces
Deconstruction Conserves Construction & Demolition Debris
Composting and Other Organics Recovery
Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse
Plastic Bag Recycling
Education and Outreach for Materials and Waste Management

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from solid waste management requires maximum waste reduction and reuse, with recycling, composting , and for the remaining wastes, energy recovery and sustainable disposal. Low-carbon transport and handling for wastes also help keep GHG emissions low. Communities can introduce efficient, GHG-saving waste management practices right now, with existing technologies. Some New York communities already have done so and are beginning to realize savings.

This page is part of the Climate Smart Communities Guide for Local Action. On this page and the related Waste Reduction and Reuse page, citizens and local governments will find strategies and information to support their move toward efficient management of materials and wastes.

We invite visitors to this website to contribute how-to ideas and community success stories -- telephone or email the Climate Smart Communities program at the numbers shown at the lower right of this page to pass on your information.

All the following links leave DEC website

Recycling and Composting

Two recycling bins with blue label saying plastic bags only please
The Climate Smart Community of
Larchmont makes it easier for
residents to recycle shopping bags.
(Photo courtesy of V. of Larchmont)

For nearly 20 years, New York State law has included a requirement for municipalities to enact local recycling laws. General Municipal Law § 120-aa (See Recycling and Composting Related Link on right) requires each municipality to adopt a local law or ordinance mandating that solid waste be separated into recyclable, reusable or other components. As a result, essentially all local governments in the state require recycling of some wastes.

Recent New York State laws (links at top right to more information) cover electronic waste and plastic bags: the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act (See "Important Links" at right) requires manufacturers to collect and recycle the covered rechargeable batteries at no cost to consumers; the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act (See "Important Links" at right) requires manufacturers to establish a convenient system for the collection, handling, and recycling or reuse of electronic waste; the Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling law (See "Important Links" at right) requires retail outlets to accept plastic bags for recycling and to recycle all returned bags. Some municipalities pass their own additional requirements for recycling these or other special wastes.

Careful selection of policies and programs can help local governments increase recycling and decrease the amount of waste disposed of by landfill or incineration. Successful local recycling programs often include technical assistance (especially with marketing recyclables), as well as frequent and convenient collection services to all types of households (including multifamily buildings), recycling depots or drop-off sites and incentives and education programs.

Tools are available to help local governments design materials and waste management programs. The link on the right to Tools for Improving Waste Management accesses how-to information for helpful tools.

EPA provides information on developing a recyclables market, with detail on securing funding for market development agencies and capital to establish or expand recycling collection or processing

  • EPA's Resource Conservation lint to home page links to a variety of recycling resources
  • EPA Recycling includes how-to information for typical recyclables and common settings

Recycling in Municipal Operations

Photocopier with blue we recycle bin and recycle symbol
Collect recyclables where materials are generated.
(DEC photo)

Local governments can promote recycling in their own operations by locating recycling containers in places where materials are generated, such as copy stations, kitchens, and in each work station. To ensure that employees know what to recycle where, mark each recycling bin with a clear identification of the type of material accepted. Educating employees about the recycling program and involving them in planning is important to success; once the program is running, brief recycling trainings or reminders should be provided regularly.

Recycling in Non-Residential Settings

Certain local government policies and practices can help promote recycling in non-residential settings:

  • Mandating that businesses and institutions recover a wide range of recyclable and compostable materials (or prohibiting disposal of specific materials);
  • Requiring businesses to write and submit recycling plans;
  • Providing technical assistance, such as waste audits and listings of drop-off sites and private recycling services;
  • Helping businesses and haulers to market recovered materials, by informing them of marketing options or allowing them to bring materials to public processing centers;
  • Providing municipal pick-up of commercial/institutional recyclables and/or convenient drop off depots that accept materials generated by businesses and institutions.

Recycling in Public Spaces

Communities can promote recycling and reinforce the recycling ethic by providing recycling collection containers in public buildings and spaces and at community-sponsored events.

Deconstruction Conserves Construction & Demolition Debris

Building-related construction and demolition (C&D) debris accounts for approximately 30 percent of America's solid waste, according to EPA. Deconstruction preserves the energy and material value of C&D and avoids GHG emissions from C&D waste disposal.

Several people deconstructing a house. Some people on the roof pulling down struts.
Deconstruction of residences yields materials for reuse
and keeps large volumes of C&D debris out of landfills.
(Photo courtesy or Finger Lakes Reuse)

In deconstruction, buildings are demolished in the reverse order of their construction and materials and products are removed. Some materials from deconstruction are reusable as recovered; other materials are reprocessed for related uses.

Common C&D recycling strategies include salvaging bricks, wood waste and other discarded building materials for reuse in renovation and other small-scale construction projects; grinding asphalt, concrete, and bricks for use as roadbed aggregate or landfill cover; processing asphalt roofing waste into a road repair asphalt material; recovering scrap metal for remanufacturing; grinding wood waste into a mulch product, and using construction and demolition debris for fill or landfill cover.

Local governments can enact policies to promote deconstruction and recycling. Deconstruction policies can provide incentives or mandates to reduce C&D waste.

Composting and Other Organics Recovery

At least one-quarter of municipal solid waste consists of organic residues (such as yard waste and food scraps) that can be recovered successfully and inexpensively at the point of generation.

Local policies and programs can expand on-site composting at institutions and large generators, increase backyard composting at residences and improve collection and recovery infrastructure for food and yard residues. Local governments that succeed in diverting large portions of waste through composting typically use one or more of the following:

  • Offer frequent community-wide curbside collection of yard debris for municipal composting
  • Target all residential buildings for yard debris collection
  • Collect a variety of yard debris materials
  • Collect food discards for composting
  • Sponsor waste prevention programs (such as backyard composting, "don't bag it" or "leave-it-on-the-lawn") for organic materials like grass, leaves, and food scraps
  • Encourage landscapers and businesses to compost
  • Help residents and public institutions to compost (some communities provide free or reduced cost composting bins for residents)
  • Use mandates or economic incentives to increase residential, commercial, and institutional participation
six female middle school students standing around a circular tall composter as one girl in a red jacket tips food scraps from a plastic bin into the opening of the composter.
Students at Goff Middle School in Climate Smart
Community East Greenbush, Rensselaer County,
enthusiastically recycle food scraps. (DEC photo)

A Related Link at the right side of this page leads to DEC's Recycling and Composting page. Other government agencies also offer information resources are available on organics recovery and composting.

Plastic Bag Recycling

New York State law requires certain retail and grocery stores to set up a plastic carry out bag recycling program for their customers. Stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains which operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carry out bags to customers, must comply with the law.

Some local governments in New York also require plastic bag recycling within their jurisdictions.

"Type 2" and "Type 4" plastic bags can be recycled (the type of plastic is sometimes printed on the bag). Examples of these bags are: grocery and produce bags; newspaper bags; bread bags; dry cleaning film; packaging for toilet paper and paper towels; clean, non-rigid food storage and sandwich bags; bags with sealed air used for packaging and shipping.

Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act

Close up picture of a tall grey bin with the words cell phone recycling and the city's logo on the front
The Climate Smart Community of New Rochelle
in Westchester County offers citizens easy
electronic waste recycling.
(Photo courtesy of Town of New Rochelle)

New York's Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act (link at top right) requires electronics manufacturers to establish a convenient system for the collection, handling, and recycling or reuse of electronic waste. Manufacturers of covered electronic equipment are responsible for implementing and maintaining an acceptance program for the discarded electronic waste, with DEC oversight.

DEC uses an electronic mailing list to keep local officials up to date on the progress of the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act program. Sign up for email updates by subscribing to GovDelivery.

  • The State Electronics Challenge website recounts in detail the outcomes of a voluntary program that encourages state, regional and local governments to develop green purchasing, operation and maintenance, and disposal policies for IT equipment. Its web page provides step-by-step guidance on adopting the challenge.

Plastic Bag Recycling

New York State law requires certain retail and grocery stores to set up a plastic carry out bag recycling program for their customers. Stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains which operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carry out bags to customers, must comply with the law.

Some local governments in New York also require plastic bag recycling within their jurisdictions."Type 2" and "Type 4" plastic bags can be recycled (the type of plastic is sometimes printed on the bag). Examples of these bags are: grocery and produce bags; newspaper bags bread bags; dry cleaning film; packaging for toilet paper and paper towels; clean, non-rigid food storage and sandwich bags; bags with sealed air used for packaging and shipping.

Education and Outreach for Materials and Waste Management

Public outreach, education and training are critical components of a local effort to reduce GHG emissions from solid waste management. Maximizing participation throughout the community requires extensive and continuous contact with residents, businesses, industries and institutions.

Reduce reuse and recycle poster with a yellow taxi cab in center and the statue of libery leaning out of the passenger window and a blue recycling bin behind the car
Recycling front and center with New York students.
Here is a 2010 winner. (DEC photo)

Local governments should make all citizens familiar with municipal initiatives, opportunities to reduce waste and to redirect wastes for reuse and recycling, and benefits of these solid waste management practices.

Cities with transient populations and diverse ethnic groups face the greatest challenges in securing broad participation and must typically spend more on recycling education. Smaller communities, by contrast, often can successfully promote participation through volunteer campaigns and personal contacts.

A selection of links to information on how to design and manage public information on solid waste initiatives appears below.

  • Online from California's Integrated Waste Management Board is Waste Prevention World: Public Education Campaigns That Promote Waste Reduction
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's reduce.org includes a multi-faceted Educational Toolbox with samples of waste reduction messages using several techniques.
  • EPA Reuse in New England: Success Stories lists organizations that provide typical community surplus materials for use by others.
  • EPA's Make a Difference Campaign for Middle School Students is an example of a youth-oriented community education campaign promoting waste reduction, reuse and recycling.