Sustainability Recipe: Recycling

September 29, 2017

Cornell Campus Sustainability Office | Fall 2018

What practical things can we do in our daily lives to protect our living environment, save money, and contribute to good jobs for people in our community? 

We’ve done the research alongside our partner (formerly) Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, and these 13 steps in the areas of local food, building energy, waste reduction and transportation are a great place to start. The Sustainability Life Recipes series will focus on ways to save money, go green, and learn about resources to support your journey.

Tompkins County recycles. In just a few decades we’ve gone from tossing everything to a landfill to reusing, recycling and composting 60% of our waste! Recycling just makes sense: you can save $100s of dollars a year by avoiding disposal fees, keep valuable resources in use and out of the landfill, and support local jobs.

But before you recycle something, consider whether it can be reused. Some stores accept donations of items that are still usable, and others will even buy used clothes, books, music and furniture from you.


  • Mix it up - Recycling in Tompkins County is now single stream - unless your specific building has another policy, you can place all your recyclable items together.

  • Schedule - All residents in the county have access to a curb-side pickup program. Find your pickup schedule at

  • Curbside Set-Out - Use a county recycling bin, or your own that weighs less than 50 pounds marked with an “R” decal placed facing the road. Visit for more info.

  • Preparing Recycling - empty, rinse and flatten. 


Recycling is free for Tompkins County residents. Savings will depend on your lifestyle, but free is much better than having to purchase trash tags and pay for removal. Annual savings are likely in the hundreds of dollars.


There is so much that can be recycled locally, including food scraps (aka “composting”).

Ben Weitsman and Teets & Son will recycle your scrap metal, including junk cars, and pay you for it!

For a complete list of recyclables, visit

Got Additional Questions and/or Ideas?

Ask the recycling pros at Tompkins County Recycling & Solid Waste.