Lacking Recycling Bins in Public Spaces: A Waste of an Opportunity

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This is a photo of one of many areas in New York City that has a trash can, but no recycling cans. This photo was taken by me. 

When I saw a good friend in Philadelphia the other day, I had an environmental brain cramp. Namely, I didn’t think to hold my plastic water bottle until I got to my friend’s house, and I therefore put the bottle in a public trash bin.

Now, I am at fault for not waiting until I got to my friend’s house, where I could’ve actually recycled the bottle. However, the City of Philadelphia was also at fault for not having a recycling bin for plastic in a public space.

The thing, though, is that the problem I describe is not unique to Philadelphia. It is a widespread problem throughout the United States in places ranging from Carlisle, Pennsylvania (the town where I went to college) to my hometown of New York City.

I don’t understand why recycling bins are still uncommon in so many places. It’s not like there’s a lack of knowledge about the benefits of increasing the amount that our society recycles. Or that there’s a lack of desire to increase how much we recycle because many of these places without adequate public recycling have been led by environmentalists for many years.[1] I just don’t know why there hasn’t been more of a conscious effort to have more recycling bins in public spaces. My only explanation is that this issue has been overlooked, though if anyone else knows why, please leave a comment below.

What I do know is that we’re wasting an opportunity to increase recycling by not having more recycling bins in public spaces, because while I don’t think that recycling in public spaces will, by itself, save this planet, what will help is measures that help our society be better stewards of the environment, including the providing of recycling bins in public spaces.


[1] Michael Bloomberg won three terms as New York City Mayor as a Republican, but the original pilot program for recycling in parks and transit hubs in New York City started in 2007, during his second term as mayor.

17 Replies to “Lacking Recycling Bins in Public Spaces: A Waste of an Opportunity”

    1. Oh people indeed.

      But an interesting observation nevertheless. I wonder if what you observe is true everywhere. If so, it would also be interesting to see if the benefits of public recycling bins are negated by people throwing their trash in public recycling bins.

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  1. I have never seen recycling bins on any of the city streets I’ve been on in the last 10 years or so. My apartment complex used to have recycling bins, but they took them out a few years back. Sigh. I suppose they found them to be too much trouble.

    Another thing we share … you went to college in Carlisle, PA, and my best friend Herb works for Ahold in Carlisle!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wait…they actually took away recycling bins from your streets? Sigh indeed. I’m shaking my head at that one. Part of taking care of the environment is about doing what’s right even if it’s a little inconvenient.

      On a different topic, yay…someone else who knows Carlisle!!! It’s a lovely place. It really is. Also, what a small world, because I may’ve passed by your friend Herb while heading to or from Dickinson. There were a few times we went on U.S. 11 to Interstate 81, and if your friend works in the headquarters on U.S. 11 then I’ve certainly passed by Herb!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep … they took away the recycling bins in the whole neighborhood … 7 streets and over 200 families! I agree … we can all make some relatively simple changes in our lifestyle that, collectively, might have a fairly sizable positive impact on the environment, but some are simply too lazy. For example … the trash dumpster is at the end of the street. I or my granddaughter walk to the end of the street with our trash each day. The lady across the street, however, DRIVES her trash to the dumpster! Not even a block!

        Yes, Herb works at the headquarters on U.S. 11,just off of I-81, and lives in Mt. Holly Springs. I’ve visited him a number of times and it is, indeed, a beautiful area. Small world, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Completely agreed. Sadly it is a problem in London too. For every regular bin, a recycling bin should accompany it. The other and better alternative is to install attached multi-purpose bins. I will say that it is wonderful to see many food & drinks establishments opting for non-plastic straws & I have high hopes that this will become a widespread initiative.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a problem in London too? Wow. That’s disappointing. Hopefully that will change.

      In terms of straws, I hope we push towards more sustainable alternatives, but I hope we make sure those alternatives accommodate people of all levels of ability. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The most and best sometimes is making sure we’re not littering and binning our items in recycled bins. Some neighbourhoods have at least one usually. Another way is reusing plastic carrier bags for shopping! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Though the awareness and importance of recycling has been prevelent since long, only a small percentage of people have actually started following it diligently. Here also the public places lack such bins. But in the community where we stay we have all started segregating waste and the dry waste is being sent for recycling rather than the landfill. A very tiny step towards a better environment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is all very true. Only recently has recycling become a thing for more of us, and we are still working on getting into that habit as a society. Baby steps are important though, as you say here. The example you mentioned in this comment is a baby step, but every baby step is important too.

      Liked by 1 person

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