Many Chinese families will begin sweeping the floors and clearing the house of old items a week before Lunar New Year. Known as, “年廿八，洗邋遢 ” or Spring Cleaning, this custom is symbolic for getting rid of bad luck that happened in the previous year, and making room for good luck in the New Year. While it is common and easy to put things in the trash bin, consider recycling and repurposing old items as you clean. Recycling not only protects the environment, but also transforms old items into new items, and reduces the amount of materials (trees, oil, etc.) needed to make those new things. Make Lunar New Year extra special by cleaning your home and your Earth in an eco-friendly way.
Here are seven common items that you can recycle and re-purpose for the New Year:
Clothes and Jackets
Need more space in your closet? Consider donating your clothes and jackets to those in need of one. Organizations like Bowery Mission takes gently worn clothes (including socks and gloves) and coats for the homeless. You can also recycle your old clothes, bags, belts, and paired shoes by bringing them to certain GrowNYC Greenmarkets, which accept these items to be sorted for reuse or recycling. Usable clothes will be distributed to local and international second-hand markets while clothes not fit for reuse will be recycled as wiping rags or shredded and repurposed for insulation and other uses. By recycling unwanted clothes you help prevent sending unnecessary waste to landfills.
- Bowery Mission
- Hours: Accepts donations 24/7, 7 days a week
- GrowNYC Greenmarket Clothing Collection
- Hours: Located at specific sites in the four boroughs with weekly collection days and hours
If you have old phones lying around, take them back to any mobile service provider to recycle. They are required to accept cell phones at no cost. Other electronics (computers and TVs) can be dropped off at collection events organized by the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Since e-waste is highly toxic to the environment, it is banned from curbside disposal. Learn how to avoid fines and dispose of electronics responsibly at NYC Zero Waste.
- Lower East Side Ecology Center (at the Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse)
- Hours: Open 5 days/week for drop-offs
Have mounds of plastic bags at home? You can save space by shopping with a reusable bag. Be mindful about your use of disposal plastic bags, which cannot be recycled at home. Clean plastic bags can be returned to large supermarkets and other select stores.
Toothbrushes, Brooms, and Mops
After all the cleaning, treat yourselves to new toothbrushes and cleaning tools! You can recycle the old ones in the metal, glass, and plastic recycling bin (usually blue bin or has blue label) if they are mainly plastic.
Party Utensils, Trays, and Plastic Food Containers
After the Lunar New Year potluck has finished, separate and recycle party utensils, trays and food containers! The majority of the items such as aluminum trays, aluminum foil, plastic utensils, and rigid plastic food containers go into the metal, glass, and plastic recycling bin (usually blue bin or has a blue label). Be sure to empty and rinse food containers before recycling.
Bottles and Cans
When you have finished with the celebratory drinks, recycle plastic bottles, glass bottles and cans in the metal, glass, and plastic recycling bin (usually blue bin or has blue label). Be sure to empty and rinse containers before recycling.
Red Envelopes, Calendars, and Lucky Signage
You can also recycle red envelopes, greeting signs and old calendars. Simply put them in the paper and cardboard bin (usually green bin or has green label). Other paper materials include magazines, wrapping paper, paper egg cartons, cardboard boxes and clean paper cups.
As a New Year is soon approaching, start fresh by tidying up in eco-friendly and responsible ways. Happy Cleaning and Happy Lunar New Year!
For more information on what you can recycle, type your item under “How to Get Rid Of…” section in the NYC Department of Sanitation website: http://www.nyc.gov/zerowaste
Written by Larissa Ho, GrowNYC Recycling Outreach Coordinator
Larissa Ho is a Recycling Outreach Coordinator at GrowNYC, where she provides education and resources to NYC residents on how to recycle. She is passionate about sustainability and taking care of the environment. She formerly worked as a Teen Health Educator with the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center.
GrowNYC’s zero waste programs are funded by the NYC Department of Sanitation.