The New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management Launches Recycling Website on Earth Day

DEC and SUNY ESF Partner to Help Reduce Recycling Confusion, Im-prove Recycling Quality Statewide

April 23, 2021

5 Min Read

[Syracuse, NY] – Today, the New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management (NYS Center for SMM), based at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), launched a first-of-its-kind statewide recycling website to address residential recycling confusion and contamination across the State. Visitors to will learn about the value of everyday materials and why it is important to recycle correctly.

The Recycle Right NY campaign was originally launched by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) after a series of recycling stakeholder meetings in 2018 to jump start discussion aimed at addressing challenges facing New York’s recycling system.   Campaign management was transitioned to the Syracuse University Center for Sustainable Community Solutions (SU-CSCS), a core partner with the NYS Center for SMM. The SU-CSCS team worked with more than 100 New York state recycling professionals to further build out this important resource. 

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York leads the nation in educating the public on the importance of reducing solid waste through reduction, reuse, and recycling. DEC launched the Recycle Right NY campaign working with recycling professionals, and we are eager to expand this effort through our partnership with ESF. All New Yorkers can do their part to ensure we reduce waste and improve recycling, and this outreach and education effort will connect communities with the tools they need to develop best practices for assisting residents in recycling materials from the waste stream into viable commodities for manufacturing.”

“The Recycle Right NY website is a critical first step to reinvigorate the State's recycling industry, reduce waste and to address recycling confusion,” said Kate Walker, the NYS Center for SMM’s Project Director, “The NYS Center for SMM is pleased to serve as a convener for this effort to engage key stakeholders. We look forward to continuing the critical work of reimagining ways to strengthen our economy and environment through waste reduction and recycling."

Recycling guidelines across the State differ significantly. Therefore, an item accepted by one local recycling service may not be accepted in other areas of New York. These variations, coupled with insufficient information about specific items, leads to confusion and results in negative impacts to New York’s recycling system. When non-accepted items are placed in recycling bins, those items can ultimately damage recycling facility equipment, decrease the value of other recovered materials, and incur additional environmental and economic costs for transport to a waste facility.

The Recycle Right NY site features new resources such as a search tool to help visitors easily find their local recycling guidelines, as well as a “Recyclopedia” – an encyclopedia for recycling – that will provide waste reduction, reuse, and recycling tips for more than 300 common household items. Together, these resources will help residents to learn more about what is and is not recyclable, and how best to reduce, reuse, and recycle in their communities.

So many people ask me: Can any item with the recycling symbol on it be recycled? Recycling can be confusing and often leads residents to “wish-cycle,” or optimistically place items in their recycling bin even if it is not an acceptable recyclable item. Meanwhile, municipalities face complex challenges to properly collect, sort, and market clean recyclable materials.  I am thrilled that the Recycle Right NY effort will reduce contamination of recycling streams across the State by offering direct support to community leaders on how their residents can improve their recycling habits,” said Gary Carrel, NYS Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling (NYSAR3) Board President and Erie County Solid Waste Recycling Specialist. 

“Our goal is to make recycling easy to understand and simple to do. We hope to shift the perception of used materials as 'waste to be discarded' to 'resources to be recovered '”, said Melissa Young, Assistant Director for Syracuse University’s Center for Sustainable Community Solutions, “Beyond recycling, we hope to inspire and empower New Yorkers to reduce and reuse items when possible, which will greatly aid us in our journey to becoming the lowest waste producing state in the country.”

In addition to the new recycling website, the Recycle Right NY campaign has launched its own social media pages and e-newsletter, and will develop new educational resources such as short videos, a resource locator map, and much more.

The campaign is supported, in part, by $5.75 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Announced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in September 2020, a total of $11.9 million is supporting DEC’s academic collaborations with three State University of New York colleges, and will help drive solutions to benefit local and statewide solid waste management and recycling efforts, streamlining the recycling process, lowering costs, improving public outreach, and protecting the environment.

The theme for Earth Day 2021 is “Restore Our Earth.” Recycling, along with waste reduction and reuse, can help achieve this goal by empowering us all to become stewards of New York’s materials and beautiful natural environments. Recycling correctly keeps valuable materials in productive use longer, which helps to conserve natural resources, reduce litter, save energy, prevent pollution, create jobs, and bolster the economy.

Waste reduction, reuse, and recycling involves individual choices made in homes, at work, and on the road. So, this Earth Day, visit and pledge to “Know Before You Throw!” and “Recycle Right!” Encourage family and friends to do the same. New Yorkers working together will accelerate the State’s journey to zero waste and build a model of sustainable materials management for the rest of the nation.

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