Sustaining Recycling

Most Westporters care about the planet. We want to do the right thing.

But we’re busy. And we don’t always know how.

Sustainable Westport has our back.

The non-profit organization — which supports Westport’s goal of becoming net-zero by 2050 by educating and assisting the town, residents and businesses to adopt sustainable practices — knows that recycling is confusing.

knows that recycling is confusing.

There are so many ways to recycle. So many dos and don’ts. And so much stuff to recycle to begin with.

What goes in the single stream blue bins? What must be left out? What can’t be recycled at all?

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

Sustainable Westport says:

Items that cannot be processed by our local facility often ends up there with good intentions. People are unaware or unsure if an item is accepted, so they throw it in the blue bin hoping it will be recycled. This wishful thinking — called “wishcycling” — significantly contributes to recycling contamination. The most common single-stream recycling contaminants are plastic bags, electric cords, garden hoses, shredded paper, household items and plastic toys.

Many people (particularly those who “wishcycle”) think that attendants at the facility sort through recycling, and remove items that can’t be recycled.

Nope. In Westport, if more than 10% of a recycling pile is deemed unacceptable material, the entire pile is diverted to the incinerator — including everything that can be recycled!

Our contamination rate is about 35%.


Rather than continuing to guess or “wishcycle,” you can:

When all else fails, remember: When in Doubt, Leave it Out.

PS: Unfortunately, the recycling symbol is unregulated. Manufacturers can widely and intentionally misrepresent their products (called “greenwashing”) as recyclable, when they are not.

Just because an item has the recycling symbol (with or without a little number inside), it does not mean the item can be recycled,, or that it was created from recycled materials.

All the more reason to educate yourself on how to recycle right.

PPS: Sustainable Westport gives a shout-out to Staples Players.

For their recent hit show “Twelfth Night,” the high school theater group made a conscious decision to transition their concession offerings away from single-use plastic.

They found a BPA-free aluminum water product. Aluminum cans and bottles are created from 68% recycled content and are infinitely recyclable, making them one of the most valuable commodities in the recycling system. .

PPPS: Our transfer station accepts paint, for recycling in Bristol. Westporters recycle 1.9 tons of paint — each month!

PPPPS: With electricity rates up around 40% since last year, an in-home energy audit makes sense. To learn how to make your house more energy efficient, click here. To learn how to switch to less expensive electricity suppliers, click here.

PPPPPSConsidering solar (but overwhelmed by the process)? Click here for 7 steps, from understanding federal and state incentives to permits and installation.

(“06880″is”sustained” by our readers. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

10 responses to “Sustaining Recycling

  1. This blog would be more helpful had it listed the numbers on bottom of items that indicate recylcleabiltiy…usually, 1,2,and 5 and all cardboard (91% of used cardboard as recycled in 2021) can be recycled…the black “take out” containers, never recycle and styrofoam packing never recycles….cans, of course…just toss other stuff.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

      As any old Westporter would say:
      “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.”

    • Yes, 1 and 2 are givens for the single stream, but I don’t believe we’re there yet with 5. As mentioned in the blog, if in doubt, consult one of the sites that Dan (Woog) mentions. Yes, recycling takes a bit of extra research at times. It’s worth it.

  2. Thank you so much for doing this Dan. I really want to do the right thing with recycling and I never know exactly what to do with those questionable items, but I do now.

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    As they used to say at Parris Island: “Take all you want but eat all you take”. With obesity being the real pandemic in the US, I would respectfully suggest that the best way to cut food waste might be portion control.

  4. I am so surprised that 35% 1/3rd of what is put in the recycling bins is thrown out!!! Next time I’m there I will personally look and see if plastic bags or styrofoam or other non-recyclables are in the bins and remove them if I can.

  5. While it’s still important to think about recycling and doing what we can in order to maintain a sense of agency, we do need to move beyond sustainability to planetary regeneration since on a very basic level, life doesn’t sustain — it goes through a natural life cycle. We know from systems science that life is interconnected so we need to transform how we think about being in the world in order to regenerate communities and the planet as a whole. I am proud to live in Westport for it’s sustainability efforts, but the next evolution of thinking is really about regeneration because we now know that regeneration aligns with how the rest of life works. If you’re interested in learning more about this, I’d recommend reading Jeremy Lent’s The Web of Meaning or viewing this video: Change will require re-imagining and transforming our way of thinking and being (from the inside out).

  6. Edward Bonham

    Wait until all the residents with their battery equipment have to dropped off and stored separately because of the hazards and toxicities with the precious metals in them.

    Thank that’s the worst part? If you get caught using a leaf blower on your property, you get…a pamphlet (gasp). No enforcement, therefore, everyone will continue using them. Love it!!!!

    Majority of recyclables are just single streamed and brought to Wheelerbrader and burned anyway for electricity.

  7. Many products these days also have plastic overwrapps that are not recyclable unless they are removed from the bottles. But, these are not clearly marked and often found in the recyclable dumpsters. Secondly, all food containers, jars, and cans need to be rinsed prior to placing in the bin because the food causes contamination. Also, don’t forget pizza boxes are also not recyclable due to the grease. Also adds to the contamination rate that causes the whole dumpster to be incinerated vs recycled.

  8. Dan – Thank you so much for sharing this information from our latest newsletter. The comments here reflect the massive confusion and misinformation that persists around recycling. It is also important to remember that Recycling is the last line of defense — we need to Refuse, Reduce and Reuse first and foremost. We are happy to answer any specific recycling questions that the community may have, but Dan has highlighted the resources that we turn to if we are uncertain.

    Also as a point of clarification, Sustainable Westport is not a town committee, but rather a non-profit organization (read about our history here –

    P.S. Pizza boxes with grease are recyclable — just no food (e.g., pizza sauce, cheese)

Leave a Reply