I’m not an idiot, and my neighbors are not idiots — and many of them have housekeepers who are not idiots — but do many of us really have any idea what happens to the stuff we “recycle?”  And what goes where?

Now I do!

If you live in New York City, here it is in one minute.  New York is a “two-stream” city (basically: paper stuff in one stream, glass, metal, and plastic) except now the city has begun picking up “compostables” separately (click here for instructions, here if you want them in Bengali) and electronics even more separately still.

If you live in Winnipeg, here it is in 3 minutes.  At least as of this 2o13 video, Winnipeg was a one-stream city — everything recyclable in one big bin.

That’s possible because — if you live anywherethis 8-minute video shows you just how all your stuff is sorted once it gets to the “murf” and then what happens to it after that.  Which I found both interesting and helpful.  Now I get why I’m supposed to do this.

Don’t worry about the staples in your magazines or the glassine windows in your junk mail.  But Styrofoam and plastic bags?  Nope.

If you watch these videos, you’ll have a better sense of what goes where and why.  And how.

Ideally, Google will turn up a video for your own town, because some of the things you can recycle in New York you can’t in Winnipeg. E.g., aluminum. How nuts is that? (See? Canada isn’t perfect either, though it comes close.)


Or you could find ways to recycle stuff yourself.  Here are 38 things you can do with plastic bottles. I will do none of them; but I do save the clear plastic bags the dry cleaner folds my shirts into (even Charles got with that program).  And I save those red plastic cups everybody uses at parties.

“Do you recycle?” my guests ask.

“No!” I cry, alarmed, as they appear ready to toss them trashward — “I reuse!”

I mean, how dirty does a cup of beer get? 

Rinse immediately in really hot water; air dry; reuse.