Recycling basics: some restrictions apply

By Felicia Hodges
Posted 7/9/24

With concerns about global warming and better caring for Mother Earth on many minds, the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle basics have almost become a mantra.

But have you ever finished a bottle of water, …

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Recycling basics: some restrictions apply


With concerns about global warming and better caring for Mother Earth on many minds, the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle basics have almost become a mantra.

But have you ever finished a bottle of water, picked up a suit from the dry cleaners or gotten a package delivered to your door and wondered what to do with the container it came in?

Whether you drag your household waste to the curb in front of your home for your municipal sanitation to pick up, pay a hauling service to take it away, or pack it up and drive it to one of the county’s transfer stations yourself, knowing what to recycle – and how – could not only reduce waste but keep the “What do I do with this when it’s empty?” angst to a minimum.

According to, recycling was first mandated for county municipalities, businesses and residents in 1989. Paper (including newspapers, cartons and juice boxes), non-waxed cardboard, glass bottles and jars, metal containers and cans, foil, and rigid plastic containers are all accepted in Orange County for recycling. To make things easier, municipalities and trash pick-up services allow for recyclable items to be placed into one single-stream container. Some removal companies may not accept things like glass, but the county transfer stations in Newburgh, Port Jervis and New Hampton all do. You just have to get it there.

But be warned: Some restrictions apply.

“Paper and cardboard must be free of contaminants such as food or Styrofoam,” Ermin Siljkovic, Orange County Department of Public Works recycling coordinator, said. “Bottle caps can stay on bottles that are recycled. If the pet food pull tab is metal and is washed and free of food residue, it can be placed in the metal can it came with and be recycled.”

Although rigid plastic containers like laundry detergent bottles, food take-out packages and empty prescription pill containers are all accepted for recycling at the county’s dumps, some plastic – particularly the bag liners from your favorite cereals, single-use grocery store bags, old sandwich bags, dry cleaning films or the wrap from water bottle cases, toilet and paper towel packs – are not as welcomed, even though they are recyclable.

“Plastic Bags are not permitted at almost every Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that accepts comingled materials therefore they are not accepted in our curbside recycling bin nor at the…[county] transfer stations,” Siljkovic said. The reason? They can damage the recycling equipment.

But as the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that almost 70 percent of the 430 million tons of plastic produced on the planet each year ends up in waterways (and eventually into our food chain), throwing those plastics into the trash isn’t really a viable option. So, what are consumers supposed to do with them?

Enter the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act. Designed to help lessen the almost 24 billion plastic bags used in New York state each year, it is one reason stores now charge for bags when you forget to bring your own, but it also has an environmentally friendly benefit: Grocery stores and some retail chains in the state are required to collect plastic films and bags.

“Clean plastic film can be taken back to most chain retail locations,” Siljkovic said. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also requires that stores maintain records for at least three years detailing the weight of film plastics they collect and where the plastics eventually end up for recycling.

All packaging with “store drop-off” labels, dry plastic produce and bread bags, plastic mail envelopes, and bubble wrap can be left in the collection bins at area Shop Rite, Aldi, Hannaford, Stop and Shop, and Price Chopper markets, as well as Kohl’s, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target and Ocean State Job Lot stores. The bins are usually located in the front of the store or near the entrances or exits, but if they aren’t easy to find, ask at the customer service counter or look for signage to direct you to them.

As six-pack rings, snack/candy wrappers, as well as potato chip, frozen food, mesh, and mix salad bags are not accepted for recycling, they should be put with the trash and not in the collection bins.

Because plastic films are highly recyclable, they can, according to the DEC, be made into composite lumber for decks, benches, and playground sets. They can also be turned into pellets which can then be used to make new bags, containers, shipping crates, pallets, and pipes.

Recycling might feel like a huge pain – especially if you’re the one sorting, collecting and storing all of the family’s bags, bottles, paper and plastic until collection day – but the benefits the planet gains definitely outweigh the hassle.