The Best Cities for Recycling

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

Since moving to the center of Tel Aviv this past winter, I’ve experienced how a major city deals with its recyclables and trash collections. I’ve found the system here to be lacking in efficiency, environmental awareness and creativity. So, with my curiosity picqued and the internet beckoning, I got online to see what’s been happening in other cities.Germany comes out smelling like a rose (no pun intended); from everything I’ve read, it’s considered to be the leader in the field. Some sources site that 9 out of 10 households separate their trash. In Berlin there are 7 different types of bins, each one for different recyclable waste; general waste, paper, compost, plastic/metal, amber glass, clear glass, and green glass.

In Paris, rubbish is collected at least once a day, either early in the morning or at night. They limit the color of their containers to two; yellow and green. Their rationale is that the public wouldn’t respond to more than two colors. OK….

In Rome, trash is collected seven days a week. The only days with no collections are major religious holidays. Even with 2500 new recycling bins ordered by the city council, a BBC reporter still found it difficult to locate these containers throughout the city. Italy is far less advanced in recyclable rates in comparison to other European countries like Germany and Denmark

The most elegant solution for trash and recyclables goes to Bryant Park in NYC. Ignachio Ciocchini, the designer of the trash bins, was inspired by the plants and flowers in the park in creating the tulip shaped metal trash bins; he chose the fern green color to match the greenery. Although Bryant Park, one of Manhattan’s jewels, may appear to be only a block long urban (square) park that should have few problems with trash disposal, during the summer traffic it draws up to 5,000 people per hour at peak times.

Bryant Park has also received 25 new cans for recycling. Paper recycling containers are lime green and bins for bottles and cans are a deep blue with circular cutouts.

Ciochinni said that the eye catching bins, contrary to conventional public trash cans, are meant to be looked at. He feels that they’ll get people to pay more attention and act as a reminder that throwing out garbage is important. These ‘hard not to notice ‘containers will be showing up in other parks and areas of the city.

But it’s Jim Foss’ invention that hands down is transforming the world of recycling and trash disposal in a big way. In 1999, Jim was taking a walk in Fenway Park and saw all the overflowing trash cans and litter; he decided that he wanted to help Boston with this problem. At the time, Jim was working for an electric-car company so he was comfortable with solar technology and motors. He proceeded to create a makeshift design for a garbage can fitted with a solar-powered trash compactor.

A huge benefit of his invention, Big Belly, is that it holds four to five times more than conventional city trash cans. It significantly reduces the number of trips made which in turn reduces the amount of time, money and fuel a municipal government spends in order to collect trash. His original idea led to the creation of a 15-employee company, Seahorse Power, which sold its first solar-powered receptacle in 2005.

In Spring 2009, Philadelphia inaugurated its first Big Belly; within a matter of months over 500 units were installed, with 210 of them featuring an additional recycling bin component. Since the compacting bins can hold close to eight times as much waste as a regular trash can and only have to be emptied 5 times per week (versus regular bins which need to be emptied 19 times), the city stands to save some big bucks on staff time, fuel costs, and greenhouse gas emissions. Ka-ching! Philly is slated to save close to 12 million dollars over 1o years using Big Bellys. Other cities that are using Big Bellys are: Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ventura, Ca., Queens, New York and Banff, Canada.

The award for the funkiest recyclable containers goes to the dome shaped, graffiti and designer bins (at top of page) in Berlin. Germany once again comes up with a solution for an effective and cool way of disposing of trash and recyclables.

Aside from recycling, one way businesses can be more environmentally conscious is by switching to greener forms of energy. Not sure where to begin? Go to the Utility Bidder website to see a range of different quotes from energy suppliers that can provide the energy your business needs at an affordable price.

A company that has created a service where participants are rewarded with prizes for the poundage of their recyclables is doing some great work. The key is that municipalities, cities, businesses need to sign up for the service; only then can individuals participate. Check out Recycle Bank. It’s worth it!

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at

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Fran Sorin
6 comments… add one

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salix August 12, 2010, 9:23 am

You mention Denmark along with Germany as having high recycling rates. Ad to that that household recyclables are not collected, but people take them to recycle-centres! Denmark is indeed a clean country – which you will notice right away if you visit.

Thanks for the info. on how recyclables are handled in Denmark. Gee, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, if our garbage collectors didn’t pick up recyclables weekly, I wonder how much would have been thrown in with the garbage. Kudos to the people of Denmark for taking care of their country… gives me hope! Fran

Donna August 12, 2010, 6:22 pm

One of the best reads of blogs anywhere. You did a lot of research for this post. Very cool receptacles and kudos to the inventors. Encouraging people to recycle and use the containers in the first place is HUGE.

Dear Donna,
I agree that the folks who are educating and encouraging others to recycle is a step towards sanity. But it’s not enough. Some cities, I believe San Francisco, have taken some significant steps when its comes to sustainability. Fran

healingmagichands August 13, 2010, 7:04 am

In this household, we recycle everything that can be recycled, including “green waste” in our compost pile.

I think it is interesting to see how much thought and energy has been put into recycling and “green” trash disposal all over the world. In our little municipality, we have a company that recycles pretty much everything: glass, plastic, metal, paper, cardboard. BUT, there is NO pick up of recyclables done in this town. At all. You have to want to recycle, save it all yourself, separate it and tote it down to the recycling center. And while there are lots and lots of places to put trash around town, none of them provide a separate spot for recyclable items.

Actually, in this area, it would be wonderful if people would just put their trash in an appropriate receptacle. Unfortunately, the local “concensus” seems to be that the right thing to do with trash of any kind is just throw it on the ground. We have a terrible problem with litter here. And when it was brought up at the City Council meeting, the “powers that be” couldn’t see why it was a problem, even when the expert who was addressing them pointed out that at the entrance to City Hall there was lots of litter in the gardens that surrounded it, and it made the whole place look bad. This was a person who had been hired to improve our City Image so that we could attract more retirees and manufacturers. The City Council’s response was along the lines of “Oh, who cares? And there’s going to be some new mulch put on top of all that trash next month, so big deal.”

It is a real problem around here. Ignorance and apathy abound.

So kudos to the folks around the world who actually give a rap about recycling. They are way ahead of us here, all we are trying to do now is get people to stop littering. Maybe when we are able to do that we can start encouraging them to recycle.

Healing Magic Hands,
First, my hats off to you for being so diligent with your own recyclables. It’s hard to believe that your township doesn’t pick up recyclables; and it is absolutely negligent that your City Council is responding in such a non-proactive manner. Recycling is an easy, basic and smart way of helping the environment, cutting costs and just living in a cleaner, tidier environment; it’s simply a no brainer.

There are some great companies that have teamed up with cities in the collecting of recyclables. People who participate in the programs win rewards based on the poundage of their recyclables. One company that offers this type of service is It is a smart, much needed service that cities are beginning to use….it is advantangeous for all who participate.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s good to hear from someone else who feels so strongly about this issue. Fran

meemsnyc August 14, 2010, 2:21 am

Those are cool public recycling bins. I’ve seen though people throw garbage in bins clearly labeled for recycling. It’s frustrating. People’s attitudes have to change as well! They need to be more concerned about “recycling”.

Sheryl August 17, 2016, 8:29 am

Curious facts about how different cities collect their waste and where people have the best recycling habits. I only can admire the Germans: 7 different types of bins and 9 of 10 households strictly separate their waste! We can only learn from them.

Fran Sorin August 19, 2016, 12:47 am

There is MUCH to learn from cities that are at the top of their game when it comes to recycling. Fran

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