Countdown: 24 Days Until Single Stream Recycling Becomes the Law in Greenwich

01234The rumors are true. Beginning Aug1, single stream recycling will become the law in

Greenwich. So what does single-stream recycling mean?

Typically, Greenwich residents currently pay a private hauler for twice-weekly garbage pickups, plus they receive a separate, monthly mixed paper collection for which the town picks up the tab. This takes place in tandem with weekly blue bin pickups, also underwritten by Town of Greenwich and contracted through Greenwich Recycling. This system is different from our neighboring towns of Stamford and Port Chester, NY, where the cost of both trash and recycling pickups are covered through local taxes.

Under the new program, blue bin and mixed paper pickups will cease. Private haulers will collect single stream recycling as well as garbage. Residents must now dedicate one bin for recycling items and others for garbage. The list of items that can now be recycled, and placed in one bin, has been significantly increased.

• Plastics #1 through #7 (now, only #1 and #2 were recyclable)
• Plastic six‐pack can holders
• Styrofoam and packing peanuts (both are #6)
• Newspaper
• Junk mail
• Brown bags
• Mixed paper
• Cardboard
• Milk, juice and ice cream containers (empty and rinsed)
• Uncontaminated pizza boxes
• Phone books
• Glass
• Tin and aluminum cans
• Metal aerosol cans (empty)

For full list go to: and click on “List of Recyclables.”

Even plastic bags can be recycled, so there’s no need to bring that wadded bundle to the supermarket. (Caveat: Don’t put your single stream recycling inside a plastic bag).

The immediate benefits to residents are twofold. First, the time required to sort and separate will decrease. Second, there will be no need to drag a recycling bin to the curb. Haulers will do a backyard pickup. For residents who prefer to take their own trash and recycling to the dump, “orphans,” in the parlance of Holly Hill, the transition will be equally time saving. The recycling area of Holly Hill will no longer include separate containers for newspaper, mixed paper and commingled items. There will be just one massive single stream container.

According to Holly Hill Superintendent John McKee, “Once we’re up and running, the amount of recycling should quadruple. We’re looking for a ratio of recycling to trash along the lines of 80 percent to 20 percent.”

The town will save about $1.2 million a year by canceling its contract with Greenwich Recycling, and will also see significant savings by paying to dispose a much smaller amount of municipal solid waste, because so many more items are recyclable with single stream recycling.

The town has contracted with City Carting to remove recycling from Holly Hill and ensure it undergoes the single stream recycling process. To view the “stream” as it moves from the tipping floor, past magnets, eddy currents and streams of air, and ultimately gets bundled and loaded onto trucks, go to:

The burden now falls to local haulers to work out a new arrangement with each of their customers. This task may be tricky for haulers who contract with owners of multi-family homes, apartment complexes and commercial operations, offices and retailers. Also, making sure residents comply is now the responsibility of the haulers, who have been instructed by The Greenwich Department of Public Works (DPW) not to pick up garbage when they see recycling hasn’t been separated, and to leave a note for the customer. Though the DPW will have a system of hauler fines in place, “right now we are focusing on education rather than enforcement,” said Patrick Collins, DPW’s assistant superintendent of the Holly Hill facility.

“The haulers are on the front line,” said Collins. “They’re the heroes making this happen for the town.”

In most scenarios, customers will swap out one trash pickup for a single stream bin collection. If customers fear their garbage will start to smell and want to retain the second weekly pickup, they can add it back in, but will obviously be charged for it by the hauler.

Members of Greenwich Recycling Advisory Board (GRAB) who are concerned with the ethical aspects of recycling, conducted considerable research around the country to ensure that all the single stream items really get recycled. According to Sally Davies, volunteer chair of GRAB, her group concluded that are markets in place for the recyclable items and that the private companies have invested heavily in the business model.

With both a cost savings to the town and gentler impact on the environment, single stream recycling should result in a win-win scenario. Once the kinks are worked out, we can all feel good about that.

And if you don’t want to keep your blue bin, just recycle it. It’s a “number four.”

Anyone with questions can e-mail Davies, volunteer chair of the Greenwich Recycling Advisory Board at


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