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.
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 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 the RecycleRightNY website 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.
The New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management (Center) was established at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in the spring of 2020 through a NYS Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grant administered by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The Center places ESF, DEC, and their partners in a leadership role regarding materials (waste) reduction, reuse, and recycling in New York and the US. The Center focuses on the breadth of the Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) framework. SMM is an approach to promote sustainable materials use, integrating actions targeted at reducing negative environmental impacts, while preserving natural capital throughout the life cycle of materials, taking into account economic efficiency and social equity. Natural capital is preserved through SMM by increasing resource productivity, reducing material throughputs, and reusing/recycling materials to such a degree that depletion of natural capital is minimized, and ecosystem services maintained. The objective is to maximize positive, and minimize negative environmental, economic, and social outcomes across the entire life cycle, as well as at every stage of the cycle.