Sustainability, green living, conservation, renewable resources…all words we hear when talking about the environment. Talking is easy, but putting them into action can be a challenge. What can you, as one person or one family, do? A great way to start minimizing your impact on the environment is to follow the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce by using less of a material or product. Reuse by using a product you already have again or for another purpose. Recycle so that the item can be reprocessed into new materials and items. For more information on the 3R’s, see below.

The Health Department takes care of many recycling services for the county. You can help by reducing, reusing and recycling your items properly to help keep Putnam green.

Putnam County Code 205 requires that all residents and businesses recycle: “All generators of solid waste shall separate out all recyclable materials […] for separate curbside or dropoff collection. No person or persons shall dispose of recyclables, except by placing the same at curbside or other designated dropoff area which has been approved and designated as such by the municipality in which such person resides.” Materials generally recycled include paper and cardboard products, plastics numbered 1 through 7, glass, aluminum and tin cans. Please contact your hauler for more specific information. Violations of County Code 205 may result in a fine of up to $500 per day.

As of March 1, 2020, plastic carryout bags are banned from distribution by retailers in New York State who collect sales tax. This includes grocery stores, clothing stores, home improvement stores, toy stores, and more. Retailers are still allowed to give paper bags to their customers and most are selling reusable bags. For more information about the ban, please visit The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for enforcing the ban, but PCDOH can answer your questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I have to pay for my paper bag?

Any fee for a paper or reusable bag is up to the store. Putnam County is not imposing any fees or taxes on paper bags.

Will I still be able to use plastic bags for my produce?

Yes. Produce bags are exempt from the law. So are plastic bags used to contain meats, seafood, items from bulk containers, food prepared to order, prescriptions and more. For a complete list of exempt bags, visit

What about plastic bags from restaurants?

Restaurants are still allowed to use plastic bags for take-out, leftovers and deliveries.

Is it safe to reuse bags?

Yes. Reusable bags can and should be cleaned frequently.

Does this new law affect the Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Law?

The new law keeps all of the requirements of the Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Law in place. Remember, plastic bags and film labeled with a 2 (HDPE) or 4 (LDPE) can be recycled at drop-off locations. Click here for plastic bag and film recycling drop off locations.

How can I remember my reusable bags?

Keep your reusable bags handy- in your car, purse, briefcase or near the door. It’s going to take time to build a new habit of bringing reusable bags to the store with you. There are a wide variety of reusable bags that can be folded up and put in a purse or even ones that stand up in your trunk. Once you figure out what you like and what works best for you, it’ll be much easier to remember bringing your bags to the store with you.

If you have more questions about the plastic bag ban, feel free to contact us by phone 845-808-1390, email or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @putnamhealthny.

Special Wastes

Some unwanted materials can be difficult to dispose of in a safe or sustainable manner. Putnam County provides assistance for disposal and recycling of household hazardous waste, unwanted pharmaceuticals and old electronics.

Household Hazardous Waste
Each year, the County provides for the disposal of household hazardous waste by scheduling two collection events with a company specializing in the collection and disposal of hazardous substances. These events are partially funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A list of materials accepted can be found here. For information regarding the next event, call (845) 808-1390 extension 43150.

Unwanted Pharmaceuticals
Unused medications should never be thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet. Proper disposal of old and unused mediations keeps them out of our water supply and prevents misuse. The Department of Health, along with Putnam County Communities That Care, the Sheriff’s Department and Putnam Hospital Center, sponsors two medication collection days each year. Prescription medication and ointments, over the counter medicine, pet medication and vitamins are collected. Sharps (needles, syringes, lancets) are not accepted. Proper sharps disposal is listed below.
In addition to the two collection days, Putnam County Communities That Care provide Medication Drop Boxes in seven locations. Click here for the list of locations and hours.

Most discarded electronics are still functional and should be donated or sold instead of thrown away. For electronics that no longer work, they should be recycled. Recycling electronics reduces waste and helps to reduce the demand for raw materials, such as metals for circuits, oil for plastic components and the energy used to extract the materials. Stores like Best Buy and Staples will recycle your old electronics, sometimes for a fee.

Electronics recycling sponsored by Putnam County is currently suspended. Please check back for updates or contact the health department at 845-808-1390.

How Do I Get Rid Of…

waste disposal optionsPlastic Bags: Plastic bags, like most types of plastic, are recyclable. Instead of putting them in the curbside bin with your other recycling, they need to be recycled separately by bringing them back to the grocery store. Under New York State law, certain retailers that provide plastic carry out bags to customers are required to provide a plastic bag recycling program for their customers.  More than just your grocery bags can be recycled at these locations. As long as they are clean and dry, you can also recycle bread bags, produce bags, dry cleaning bags, paper towel packaging, and even more. Click here for a list of participating stores in Putnam County. What happens to the plastic bags you recycle? Some of them become plastic bags again, or containers or crates, but most of them become a composite lumber that is used to make decks and park benches. For more information on plastic film recycling, visit: Plastic Film Recycling


Oil Based Paints & Stains:
Oil based paints and stains are considered hazardous waste. Please bring these to the next household hazardous waste collection event.

Acrylic/ Latex Paints:
Latex paints are not considered hazardous waste, but they must be completely dried before throwing away. If the can is almost empty, leave the lid off and let it dry. If there is still quite a bit of liquid in the can, a paint hardener can be added according to package instructions. Paint hardener is available at most hardware stores. Kitty litter is also an option to help dry the paint. Once the paint is dry, leave the lid off and place with your regular trash.

Spray Paint:
Paint in aerosol cans will be accepted at our household hazardous waste collection events.

Motor oil:Used motor oil can be brought to a service facility that sells at least 500 gallons of new motor oil per year. They are required by state law to accept up to 5 gallons of used motor oil per person per day. To avoid excess used motor oil, follow the maintenance schedule for your vehicle. For more information, visit: Department of Environmental Conservation.


Alkaline Batteries
Alkaline batteries no longer contain mercury and there is currently no viable recycling option. They can be thrown away in the regular trash. A dead battery is never truly dead; To reduce the risk of sparks, place a piece of tape over the ends before placing in the trash. Since there is no recycling option for alkaline batteries, the best choice is to use rechargeable batteries.

Lead Acid Batteries
Retailers and distributers of lead-acid batteries (such as car batteries) are required to accept up to 2 used batteries per month from an individual. It is illegal to discard these items in the trash. For more information, visit:  Department of Environmental Conservation.

Rechargeable Batteries
Retailers of rechargeable batteries are required to accept up to ten batteries per day, regardless of where they were originally purchased. In Putnam County, Home Depot and RadioShack both accept rechargeable batteries for recycling. For more information, please visit: Department of Environmental Conservation.

Propane Tanks: Tanks can be returned to any place that sells them. Tanks can be refilled, and rusty ones can be recycled as scrap metal.

Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and are considered hazardous waste. Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) can be brought to stores like Home Depot and Lowes. Follow the instructions on the receptacle for proper disposal. Fluorescent light tubes can be brought to the next Household Hazardous Waste Collection event.

Smoke Detectors: Smoke detectors should be returned to the manufacturer for proper disposal. The manufacturer name and contact information should be on the top of the unit.

Syringes: Used sharps, including syringes and lancets, should be placed in a red sharps container. If a sharps container is unavailable, a laundry detergent bottle or bleach bottle can be used instead. It must be labeled “Sharps – Biohazard.” Once the sharps container is 2/3 full, bring it to a hospital or nursing home. In Putnam County, Putnam Hospital Center, Putnam Nursing and Rehab, and Putnam Ridge are all required to accept sharps. Wherever you decide to bring your sharps container, call beforehand to make sure someone is available to accept them. For a long term need, many hospitals will provide a red sharps container.

Cell Phones: Cell phones can be recycled as e-waste, but there are better options for phones that still work. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Cell Phones For Soldiers , along with other charities, accept cell phone donations. There are also several companies that will buy your old cell phone. A quick internet search will provide you with a list.

Phonebooks: The best way to handle phonebook disposal is to opt out of receiving one in the first place. As technologies change, more and more people are turning to online search engines rather than the traditional phone book. Opting out of receiving one, or several, phone books is a quick and easy way to drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Along with the Product Stewardship Institute, the Putnam County Recycling and Solid Waste program encourages you to take 3 minutes of your day to opt out of your phonebook by visiting and following the instructions.

Backyard Composting

gardenDid you know that 30% of everything we dispose of in this country is organic material comprised of food waste and yard waste? Just think about how much longer our limited landfill space would last if we reduced what’s deposited there by that amount.

Do you ever buy compost or mulch for your gardens?  What you are purchasing is the same material you’re probably throwing out, but after it’s had time to decompose.  It’s not difficult to create your own compost in your own back yard.  The links below will help get you started:

Organic material that decays naturally in the forest is what sustains all old and new growth.  If we reclaim the organic waste we create, we change “garbage” into a valuable resource.  As American architect and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller said:

“Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting.” 

Permitted Waste & Septic Haulers


Waste removal practices vary by town, so residents should contact their Town office for specific information.  All waste haulers operating in Putnam County must be permitted by the Department of Health. For a complete list, please see the links below. Permits issued for 2016 are valid through February 28, 2017.

The New 3R’s


This is the best option, because anything we don’t use will not need to be discarded. It’s easy to understand but may take some thought to implement. Grocery bags are one example – by taking reusable bags every time we shop we avoid adding to the mountains of plastic bags dumped into the waste stream. We can do even better by taking our own bags when we shop for other items as well. Book stores, clothing stores, toy stores will all put purchases in plastic bags unless we ask them to use the ones we bring. Look for products sold with minimum packaging. The cardboard, plastic, and Styrofoam your purchases come in will become waste when you get home. Instead of single serving    food containers, consider buying in bulk and dividing into reusable containers. This will probably save money as well as resources.


Items that were created for one purpose may be kept out of the waste stream by reusing them for something else. Some food products come in containers that can be used for other things. Used clothing and books can be donated. It might be possible to repair some items instead of discarding them. Schools and youth organizations often need materials for craft projects. You might also want to investigate some of the Freecycle websites that allow individuals to give away items they no longer want, or find things no longer useful to someone else.


When there is no further use for an item it may be possible to recycle it, so that the material it’s made of doesn’t clog our landfills. Purchasing items made from recycled materials helps too. Look for recycled content when you purchase new items. Many paper items contain recycled paper. Composite decking is made from plastic bags and milk containers. Fleece jacket material is often made from recycled plastic bottles. Recycling discarded products into new raw material avoids the cost of drilling for more oil or cutting down more trees.


This is a fourth “R” that we don’t discuss as often. Some companies are able to extract energy from waste materials, further reducing the amount left over. These “waste to energy” operations convert garbage to electricity by incineration in regulated facilities.


The last step of all is Landfill. If we think carefully and creatively we should be able to send a much, much smaller quantity of waste material here.

Additional Information