Close Subscribe

Get the Weekly Recap!!

Get recaps, exclusive offers, stories and discounts. We’ll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time, we promise.

It’s America Recycles Day. Here’s the state of Philadelphia Recycling
Recycle

It’s America Recycles Day. Here’s the state of Philadelphia Recycling

We answer your frequently asked questions in honor of the day

Today is America Recycles Day. Here’s the current state of Philadelphia recycling, told by common recycling questions.

Wasn’t Philly burning its recycling? What happened?

Single-stream recycling was picked up from the curb and sold to different buyers, including overseas. For example, Philadelphia’s paper from the bin was being sold to Vietnam or India.

The single-stream recycling market was disrupted in 2018 when China restricted what goods it would accept. As a result (combined with a lack of recycling contracts), Philadelphia burned half of its recycling.

However, the City of Philadelphia signed a new recycling contract in May 2019, ending (most of) the incineration of recyclables.

Is Philadelphia actually recycling NOW?

Yes, Philadelphia is recycling. However, recycling is a commodities market, which means the specifics that are recycled often depend on what can be sold for a profit.

So even if you put something in your recycling bin – and it’s “supposed” to be recycled – it may depend on if there’s a buyer. Or, recycling contamination from another resident could ruin your efforts at the MRF.

Throughout the pandemic, city residents have reported that their recycling was combined with trash. According to our investigation last year, insiders blamed a mismanaged Streets Department for the lack of recycling, although the city has blamed the weather and worker shortages.

How can I ensure MY recycling is recycled?

We get this question a lot, and it’s complicated.

It’s silly to obsess over every household item to make sure it ends up being recycled. After all, single-stream recycling is supposed to make it easier to deal with your waste.

Instead, it would be a better use of your time (and energy) to reduce your waste in the first place, to lessen your overall impact.

One great alternative? Start composting, which is estimated to reduce your trash by 25-50%.

How is the City of Philadephia managing recycling?

Mayor Jim Kenney created the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet in 2016 to diver 90% of the city’s waste from landfills. However, they cut the department (and Director Nic Espositos’ position) during pandemic budget cuts in May 2020.

The City of Philadelphia manages recycling through its Streets Department and Office of Sustainability.

How can we “fix” recycling?

You can’t. We can’t recycle our way out of the recycling problem.

Less than 100 years ago, it was common to reuse products and have the milkman drop off glass bottles at your house. Plastic wasn’t in the main (consumer) stream.

However, there were 35.7 million tons of plastic generated in 2018. And only 9% of plastic waste produced has ever been recycled.

Instead, here are ways to reduce your impact (waste), reuse, and buy locally to lessen the amount of recyclables in the stream. You won’t singlehandedly impact the city’s recycling amount, but the more people that get on the low-waste train, the better.

What can be recycled?

Our Philly Recycling Guide explains what you can and cannot recycle (aka put into your single-stream recycling bin) in the City of Philadelphia.

Broke in Philly
Broke in Philly is a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. Green Philly is one of more than 20 news organizations in the collective. Follow us on Twitter @BrokeInPhilly.

Become a Supporter!

If you love what we do you can support our mission with a one-time or monthly contribution.
array(2) {
  [0]=>
  object(WP_Term)#6037 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(4091)
    ["name"]=>
    string(21) "American Recycles Day"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(21) "american-recycles-day"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(4099)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(1)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
  [1]=>
  object(WP_Term)#6038 (10) {
    ["term_id"]=>
    int(647)
    ["name"]=>
    string(9) "recycling"
    ["slug"]=>
    string(9) "recycling"
    ["term_group"]=>
    int(0)
    ["term_taxonomy_id"]=>
    int(651)
    ["taxonomy"]=>
    string(8) "post_tag"
    ["description"]=>
    string(0) ""
    ["parent"]=>
    int(0)
    ["count"]=>
    int(41)
    ["filter"]=>
    string(3) "raw"
  }
}
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Green Philly

Featured
In These
Great Spots: