In its coverage of a rally against the proposed ban on polystyrene (hereafter inaccurately referred to as "Styrofoam" because the human race is stubborn) in front of City Hall yesterday, NBC reported that "James Reilly, who runs food packaging factory GenPak, pointed out that alternatives like paper cups are not recyclable." This is not true! But you can't fault his ignorance: the DSNY's website is inaccurate and confusing as to what paper food waste can or cannot be recycled. Here's what paper food waste you CAN recycle.
Pizza boxes and other cardboard food containers: Ignore the DSNY's edict. "Oh yeah we'll recycle your pizza boxes," DSNY Deputy Commissioner Ron Gonen says. "The pizza boxes you recycle are actually turned into pizza boxes," which the city then sells back to the pizza joints. It's the Circle of Life.
But the DSNY website states that "food particles, greases, and oils" contaminate paper goods and make them unrecyclable. Doesn't that disqualify every pizza box, ever? Nope.
"If the grease seeps through to where you can see a big hole through the box, or if you leave a slice of pizza in there, yeah that's too much, we can't recycle that." Gonen says. "But if it's just some grease stains and no solid matter, you're fine."
Coffee cups and other paper cups: Again, the DSNY refers to these as unrecyclable. Not true. "We'll fix that error tomorrow," Gonen says.
And to avoid further confusion: cereal and cracker boxes are recyclable, but the plastic or wax paper liners inside them are not. The liners are mysteriously listed as a "paper" item on the DSNY's website.
Gonen assures us that the rest of the list of unrecyclable paper products is accurate.
The Sanitation Department also recently started recycling hard plastics. Go here to see which plastics pass muster.