Reduce, reuse, incinerate: Why half of Philly’s recyclables aren’t recycled

Why is Philly incinerating more than half of its recyclables? The answer is complicated, and spans from your kitchen to China.

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Recycling bins on Cuthbert Street in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Recycling bins on Cuthbert Street in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia hasn’t been recycling half of its recyclables since October. What happens to your cans and bottles depends on where you live. If you’re in the Northeast or Northwest Philadelphia — neighborhoods north of Germantown and Lower Tacony — you’re in luck. But, if you live anywhere else in the city, your recycling is picked up off your curb and sent to a waste to energy facility, where it’s incinerated. Why is this happening? The answer, it turns out, is pretty complicated, spanning all the way from your kitchen to China. On this episode of The Why, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Frank Kummer explains, and WHYY’s Alan Yu has one company’s answer to the plastics problem.

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