Does it Ever Come Back? (And How)

written by Malorie Marshall, with reporting contributed by Craft II: Broadcast Spring 2014.

With the constant media attention given to issues like global warming and how humankind is playing a role through things like the increase in waste, carbon footprints, etc., it’s understandable how recycling has become an imperative initiative.

According to the New York City Department of Sanitation website, “New York City has the largest, most ambitious recycling program in the nation. All 3 million households, plus public schools and institutions, receive recycling collection by the Department of Sanitation.”

Infographic: How Recycled Waste is Used.

Infographic: How Recycled Waste is Used. by Maddy Perkins

Though recycling bins for paper and plastic goods can be found in areas like Times Square in midtown Manhattan, it might take a bit more searching to find them in other areas of the city.

The Department of Sanitation also says that city residents can request specific department-approved decals to create their own recycling bins for mixed paper recycling and metal, glass, plastic and carton recycling.

Once containers are out and ready for pick up, the recyclables within have a journey ahead of them, with many of them making their way out of the city and sometimes out of the country, according to Grow NYC. Despite efforts and green initiatives like plaNYC, less than 20 percent of New Yorkers take the time to recycle their goods, according to Grow NYC.

CLICK THROUGH FOR Map: Where NYC's landfills are built.

CLICK THROUGH FOR MAP: Where NYC’s landfills are built. by Daniel R. Lewis

For the non-recyclable waste produced in New York City–almost 12,000 tons, according to Grow NYC–it is sent to landfills. According to an New York Magazine story about city trash statistics, 20 percent of the city is built on top of landfills. (see infographic on right)

Landfills are areas where trash is deposited and then covered with soil. Many historic landfill sites in the city are now being converted into parks and other public areas, like Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island, projected to be safe to the public about 30 years from now.


New York City, as the largest city in America, has a huge task dealing with all its waste. Through recycling and composting, as well as laws and new transfer stations, the city is trying to reduce landfill-bound waste and limit pollution accumulation. But there are others in the city who, rather than give their broken, used, or soiled materials over to the city find another way to use them.


CLICK FOR: Trash Art


CLICK FOR: Fixers Collective

VIDEO: Homemade Soap


Some artists, like Philip Kobel and Kevin Mahoney, take discarded items to create art. Philip Kobel builds miniature landscapes and sci-fi buildings for war games and hobbyists out of trash. (link on left)

At Proteus Gowanus, a group called the “Fixers Collective” meets monthly to fix items brought in by New York City residents – anything from a record player to an umbrella, these men will try and give the item new life rather than let it be thrown out. (link on left)

And some circumvent disposable items altogether by creating their own products – Lauren Singer, an employee at the Department of Environmental Protection, cooks up her own lotions and soaps, storing them in reusable glass jars and bottles. Some, like Singer, have found a way to avoid the trash system altogether. (link above)