Did you know that Rye residents can only recycle plastics labeled 1 and 2? This means no shampoo bottles, no styrofoam, and no plastic bags.
The same is true for residents across Westchester, but the county last week announced that soon municipalities can pick up numbers 3 through 7 as well.
In a release, the county explained that it amended its recycling laws in October, but the changes will take effect June 1, 2011. They're planning to have a grace period while the transition takes place, with workers placing "oops" stickers on mistakenly placed containers and returning them to recycling bins.
While plastics labeled 1 and 2 are the most commonly used, (think water, milk and juice bottles,) the county estimates that by including numbers 3 through 7, recycling rates will increase by at least 10 percent.
This means that revenue from selling the recycled material also will increase. The county says it produced $7.3 million from recyclable material sales and had an overall recycling rate of 61 percent in 2009.
It's particularly eco-friendly to include the higher-numbered plastics in recycling efforts because they tend to be more toxic than numbers 1 and 2.
For instance, take plastic number 6, polystyrene, otherwise known as Styrofoam. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 25 billion Styrofoam cups are thrown away by Americans each year. The agency notes, "500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill."
While the county is expanding recyclable plastics to include numbers 3 through 7, that does not include plastic bags or Styrofoam. However, residents can still stuff plastic bags into the receptacles at supermarkets and other stores, or bring them to the Household Material Recovery Days at on March 18 and 19. The county plans to open a permanent recovery facility in Valhalla this summer.
State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer introduced a bill earlier this month that would mandate a five cent charge for plastic bags at stores across the state. A similar bill has been introduced in the Assembly, but the proposed tax is 15 cents.