Office of Energy & Sustainability

Common Recycling Mistakes

Here are some common mistakes noticed during waste audits at the WCM main campus. Note that the recyclability of items may vary slightly between municipal recycling rules at home (e.g., DSNY) versus at work (commercial recycling). The rules below are common to both DSNY recycling and workplace recycling at WCM.

“When in doubt, throw it out!” It’s better to put items you're not certain about in the trash rather than risk contaminating a clean recycling stream.


 1. Remnants of Foods and Liquids prevent containers from being recycled and risk contaminating other items in the bin. This is the worst recycling mistake.  Please empty and rinse containers.

Food and liquid contamination

2. Plastic films and Soft packaging are not recyclable at WCM. Note: A sign or marking that states "Store Drop-off" indicates the package is only recyclable in stores that have this specific recycling program.

 Soft packaging contaminationbubble wrap packaging 

3. Coffee cups have a layer of non-recyclable wax.

Coffee cups contamination

4. Paper towels & Napkins are not recyclable due to the short quality of their fibers.

Napkins and hand towel contamination


5. Masks are not recyclable at WCM.


Did you know

Recycling an aluminum can saves enough energy to run a tv for two hours or a computer for three hours.

Office of Energy & Sustainability 1300 York Avenue, LC006, Box 14, New York, NY 10065