Philadelphia wants you to recycle your (clean) Amazon boxes

Philadelphia sanitation workers on their route. (Image courtesy of Philadelphia Streets Department)

Philadelphia sanitation workers on their route. (Image courtesy of Philadelphia Streets Department)

Philadelphia wants you to get into the habit of recycling this holiday season.

Kyle Lewis, who leads the city’s recycling program, said the Streets Department had to put recycling on hold at points during the pandemic because they didn’t have enough staff to pick up recyclables separately from the trash, so everything was put into one truck.

“We were mixing materials,” Lewis said.

But as the city moves into the new year, staffing levels are back up and the Streets Department wants to return to pre-pandemic recycling levels. The department is managing the workflow by picking up trash first. Lewis thanked residents for their patience with the delays on recycling pickup.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“We definitely appreciate everybody continuing to recycle,” Lewis said. “We want to encourage everybody to continue to recycle despite these challenges.”

Lewis is urging people not to use plastic bags because it can contaminate not just their recyclables, but a complete load of neighborhood recycling.

“Recycling is not a short term, me-centered goal. It’s a long term, we-centered goal,” said Lewis. “We want to encourage everybody to not only look out for themselves, but to look out for your neighbors.”

She urged Philadelphians to review the city’s recycling guidelines if they are out of practice.

“Remember: no wood, no plastic bags, no hangers, no paper towels, or other kinds of soft paper, no styrofoam,” Lewis said.

The city’s recycling is down considerably since the start of the pandemic. Lewis said they are picking up 4,000 to 5,000 tons a month, about half of the pre-pandemic rate. She said the upcoming holidays provide a cornucopia of recycling, including cans and bottles. Even pet food and cranberry cans can be included in recycling as long as they are washed out.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

As for the upcoming holidays, cardboard is a prime recyclable material, said Lewis, as long as it doesn’t get wet, greasy or soiled.

“We see all these Amazon trucks zooming around and they’re delivering a lot of cardboard.”

Covers are available at sanitation convenience centers for city issued recycling bins, said Lewis.

Get the WHYY app!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal