November 28, 2021

A ‘bumpy’ beginning to city glass separation

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

The orange notice in this recycle bin explains why these materials were not picked up Tuesday: The resident failed to separate glass from the other recyclables. Under the new city policy, glass recyclables will be picked up the first week of every month, and other recyclables other than glass will be picked up on every other week.

Antonio Testa nearly got it wrong.

Last week, on Feb. 3, the first Monday of the month, he was about to put out all his recycling at once. He had received a mailer that explained the changes to the city’s recycling policy, but he didn’t understand that he was only supposed to put out his separated glass and no other recyclables.

But Testa, who lives on Halbert street, eventually got the message after interacting with other residents and Mayor Brian Tobin on, a social networking site.

Turned out Testa didn’t have much glass last week, anyway, so he put nothing outside. Many of his neighbors, however, didn’t get the message, and their mixed recycling was still out on the curb after the trash truck passed by.

Halbert Street is not alone. The rest of Cortland is still coming to grips with the city’s new policy that went into effect Jan. 1:

For the first week of every month, only glass is accepted for curbside pickup. Mixed recyclables other than glass are accepted on the other weeks. The next glass pickup week is the first week of March.

January was the test month. But last week, things got more serious.

From now on, the employees of Bert Adams, the city’s trash hauler, will no longer pick up incorrectly sorted recycling.

Instead, residents who make mistakes with their recycling will find bright orange fliers explaining where they went wrong.

Testa, for instance, got two orange notices Monday. One faulted him for putting plastic bags in one recycling bin, the other for putting out “Styrofoam and foam packing materials.”

Overall, Testa said the city’s public education campaign has been confusing.

“I needed a couple pieces of information to help me understand what was going on,” he said.

City Alderwoman Katie Silliman (D-2nd Ward) acknowledged the recycling change has been “very bumpy,” pointing to a number of complaints and misunderstandings posted on

“Many are confused about when it’s OK to put glass out,” she wrote in an email. “Some don’t understand that it’s three weeks of mixed recycling — everything but glass and one week glass only.”

“We have seen that there is a bit of a learning curve with this process as everyone becomes aware of the new guidelines, but that is something we expected,” wrote Alderwoman Kat McCarthy (D-1st Ward) in an email.

Adams, the city’s trash hauler, said residents will eventually get used to the new schedule.

“It’s going to take time, and we’re going to have educate the residents,” Adams said. “After a while, I think everybody will get it.”

The rules on recycling

These rules apply to curbside recycling in the city of Cortland:

  • Cleaned glass must be separated from other recyclables.
  • Glass is picked up only the first week of every month.
  • Mixed recyclables, minus glass, is picked up every other week.
  • Only plastic (usually hard) containers with lids, caps and tops will be accepted, but the tops must be removed and the container cleaned out.
  • Metal containers will be accepted, but the lid must also be removed and the item must be clean and dry.
  • Mixed paper will be accepted, but hard covers must be removed. It must be clean and dry.
  • Shredded paper will be accepted in a bag.
  • Cardboard must be flattened, clean and dry.

No wax-coated or food-or grease-stained boxes.

The city (and Cortland County) will not accept:

  • Lids, tops and caps of any kind.
  • Plastic bags. (Recycling at grocery stores.)
  • Styrofoam.
  • Packaging materials.
  • Fast food containers.
  • Plastic clamshell containers.
  • Straws.
  • Paper towels or tissues.
  • Wrapping paper.
  • Medicine bottles.
  • Plastic wrap.
  • Bubble wrap.
  • Pots and pans.
  • Hard plastics (e.g. Totes, five gallon buckets).
  • Plastic or Styrofoam cups (e.g. Solo or coffee cups).

Visit for more information.