Tompkins County Cracks Down on Recycling Contamination

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Officials in Tompkins County have begun the warning phase of a new enforcement plan to cut back on contaminants in the stream of its curbside recycling program.

Beginning this month, contaminated recycling bins will receive orange “Warning” stickers, giving residents an opportunity to learn which mistakes they made.

In February, those who put unacceptable items in their recycling container will get a red “Rejected” sticker and the contents of their bin will not be collected.

“Tompkins County’s current contamination rate is approximately 10%, but we need to achieve a contamination rate of less than 1%,” said Tompkins County Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist, Seth Dennis. “Common sources of contamination include plastic bags, Styrofoam, padded envelopes, coffee cups, and cigarette butts.”

Information about which items are and aren’t accepted can be found at, as well as in the 2019-2020 Curbside Recycling Guidelines brochure – available at all municipal offices, the Department of Recycling and Materials Management office, the Recycling and Solid Waste Center, and at the customer service desk of most grocery stores in Tompkins County. also features a useful “What Do I Do With?” tool, which allows residents to search for information about how to recycle or dispose of any item.


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