Ithaca Times

What About Waste: Navigating Ithaca's Confusing trash, recycling rules

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Posted: Friday, April 1, 2011 3:02 pm

For people who have just moved to Ithaca, some of the biggest questions can also be the smallest: When is garbage collection day? Where do I pick up trash tags? And what's the deal with recycling?

For residents within the city limits, Ithaca provides a trash collection service, with trash picked up once a week. To determine the day of collection for your address, you can call the Streets and Facilities Division of the Department of Public Works at (607) 272-1718 during its normal office hours, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The city crews start their day early at 4 a.m., so it's suggested residents place their trash on the curb the night before the scheduled collection day. Residents can use either trashcans or plastic bags, and there are no specific rules governing the type of can or bag that may be used.

Ithaca pays for its trash services through the purchase of yellow trash tags. Residents can purchase these tags at City Hall or at area stores, including: Agway Farm and Home Center, 213 S. Fulton Street; Campus Store, Cornell University Campus; Corner Store, 402 W. Court Street; Greenstar Co-op Market, 701 W. Buffalo Street; Jason's Deli, 301 College Avenue; Greenstar Oasis, Dewitt Mall; Pete's, 805 W. Buffalo Street; Tops, 614 S. Meadow Street; and Wegmans, 500 S. Meadow Street.

Trash tags are for large trash cans and/or bags weighing up to 35 pounds. The cost of the large tag will be $3.50 each, sold in a sheet of six for $21. Make sure that you only use the whole tag: Tags torn in half will not be accepted.

One tag is needed for each can or trash bag that is placed at the curb. If you're using a bag, the tag should be placed around the neck of the bag or on the bag itself. If you're using a trashcan, be sure to place the tag on the handle of the can so that the collectors can see it. If more than one bag of trash is put in a can, be sure that the total weight of all the bags does not exceed the weight on the tag.

Trash is not collected on the major holidays: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

As for recycling, Ithaca prides itself on being a sustainable city, so there are lots of opportunities to get rid of your recyclables. The chief of these, of course, is curbside collection. In the city of Ithaca, recycling is collected on a biweekly basis on the same day as trash day.

"The solid waste program in Tompkins County," said Leo Riley, Recycling Manager for Tompkins County, "is structured as a benefit to divert materials away from the landfills. The more you can do things like recycle and compost, the more money you're going to save."

As with the trash, be sure to have your recyclables out on the curb by 4 a.m. the morning before pickup day. Residents have the option of using either a County-provided recycling bin (available for purchase at the Solid Waste Management Division office), or their own bin. If you go with your own bin, it must no larger than 40 gallons in size and weigh no more than 40 pounds when full, and be clearly marked with an "R." Permanent marker or leftover paint can be used, or "R" stickers are available at the Solid Waste Management Division Office at no cost.

However, residents should be forewarned that not all materials are eligible for curbside collection. While the County collects materials like newspapers, corrugated cardboard, and beverage containers, it won't pick up other materials, like plastic bags, envelops, ceramics, or waxed paper. Improperly prepared recyclables or unacceptable materials will be left in your bin with a notice explaining why.

For a complete list of items that are acceptable and unacceptable for recycling, as well as for guidelines on how to prepare your recycling materials, you visit the Web site of the Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste at

Residents who prefer to drop off their curbside recyclables may bring materials to the Recycling and Solid Waste Center, at 160 Commercial Avenue in Ithaca during regular facility hours. Additional materials that are accepted only at the RSWC include textiles, sneakers, fluorescent lighting bulbs/tubes and compact flourescent lights, yard waste, scrap metal, appliances and auto batteries, computers, household hazardous waste, and refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers.

"Even residents who have been in town for a while often don't realize what kinds of materials can be dropped off at the recycling center," said Riley. "We accept batteries, fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lights."

If you have questions about recycling, feel free to call Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste.

"We have staff right here at the office who are happy to take people's phone calls or answer emails," said Riley. "We're often contacted by people wondering what to do about recycling, and we'll get right back to you."

For some additional tips on how to reduce your waste load, you can visit the Web site of Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste at

Yard waste is also collected by the City of Ithaca on a regular basis from April 1 through late fall. There is no tag or fee for yard waste collection. For more information on the city's yard waste policies, please visit

Finally, composting may be a significant way to reduce your waste and save money. According to the Web site of the Cornell Waste Management Institute, "a large fraction of the waste stream is comprised of organic residuals that can be turned from a waste into a useful soil amendment through compositing." You can learn more about the CWMI and composting in Ithaca at

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