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Small Actions Spark Big Changes

You can make our planet more sustainable

At the Academy of Natural Sciences, we believe that individual actions can truly make a difference. Each month of 2020, we’ll guide our community in a conversation about how everyday choices can affect the health of our environment. Follow along with us here, on our Blog, on social media @acadnatsci and #TakeActionANS, through email and in the museum to join the conversation!

recycling bins on street

Recycling 101

In January 2019, we learned that over 50% of Philadelphia’s recycling was being sent straight to an incinerator in Chester. The problem was part of a larger issue with recycling nationwide — that the market for purchasing recycled goods, with China being the primary buyer, had shifted greatly. In 2018, China decided to no longer accept recycled materials that didn’t meet new stringent rules around contamination and mixed materials. Soon, recycling, which had actually been profitable for Philadelphia, became an expense for the city.

One of the main reasons that much of Philadelphia’s and the United States’ recycling is so expensive to sell is that it is deeply contaminated. You can help address this problem by knowing what you can recycle and how best to clean your recycling. On the Academy Blog, find out the answers to these common questions about recycling in Philly:

  • How clean should my recycling be?
  • What can and can’t you recycle curbside?
  • What can you recycle at a special facility?
  • How can you reduce the amount of recycling you create?
  • What does yard waste and composting have to do with creating less waste?
  • What resources can help me recycle properly in the Philadelphia suburbs? 

Visit Us and Join the Conversation

Just beyond the Academy’s lobby in our Science at the Academy gallery, you’ll find a temporary exhibit space where you can join the conversation about recycling. Using a magnetic talk-back wall, write down what small actions you’ve taken to benefit the environment, take a selfie with your note and post it on Instagram using the hashtag #TakeActionANS. 

What question do you have about recycling?

Sometimes recycling properly seems like such a difficult code to crack that you may want to give up. But you’re not alone, and we encourage you to keep trying! Together, we can make a difference by sharing what we know and supporting others as they learn. Here are some questions that our visitors and staff have about recycling. Do you know the answers?Join our conversation on Facebook!  

Recycling Resources

We’re Walking the Walk

The Academy’s commitment to combat climate change relies on staff members’ willingness to make seemingly small, everyday, sustainable actions. This month, we’re teaming up with our colleagues for the following initiatives: 


The Academy recycles every day — not just in January! In additional to single stream recycling items, we also have spaces to recycle plastic bags, chip bags, batteries and small electronics. 

Academy Swap

In January 2020, the Academy is holding our first "Academy Swap." Employees can bring in everything from unwanted holiday gifts to used household goods and clothing. We’ll donate leftover clothes to charity and recycle or dispose of other items properly. We’re also having a battery recycling and paper shredding event for our staff. 


stacks of recycling materials

Upcoming Topics

Each month this year, we’ll guide a conversation in the galleries and online to share how small actions can spark big changes in our world. Coming up next: 

  • February: Talk to someone you love about climate change
  • March: Reduce water usage
  • April: Planting for the environment