Don't Just Recycle, Recycle Right!
Recycling combines environmental and economic interests with technology and industry. And YOU'RE the start of it all! For our recycling program to succeed, what you recycle and how you recycle it matters, and here's how YOU can help make recycling work!
- NO PLASTIC BAGS of any kind. No produce bags, chip bags, trash bags, bread bags, pet food bags, or food wrappers. Plastic bags are not recyclable in our program (not even "bags of bags"). The good news is that more than one hundred drop-off locations around the County accept #2 and #4 recyclable bags and similar materials for recycling. For sites and a list of what is accepted, visit: www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/recycling-bags-and-wraps/plastic-film-education-individuals/learn-what's-recyclable
- No "tanglers." Please do not recycle things that can get wrapped up in the mechanical equipment at the sorting center. This means no strings, wires, hoses, electrical cords, light strands, VHS cassettes, clothes hangers, and for good measure, no plastic bags.
- Do not recycle soiled or soft, low-grade paper products. This includes tissues, paper towels, paper plates, greasy pizza boxes, and waxed paper. Those items are at the end of their useful life for recycling, but some could be composted at home!
- No shredded paper. Small scraps of paper are impossible to sort in a single-stream system. Paper shreds mix in and contaminate other materials, lowering the value of your recyclables. One more reason to compost at home!
- Don't recycle disposable cups or other dining waste. No coffee or soda cups of any kind, no Solo cups, straws, paper plates, plastic cutlery, takeout containers, napkins, food wrappers, etc. No matter what "recycling" labels you may see, none of that can be processed through the blue bin program.
- Plastics: Think "Bottles, Tubs, Jars, and Jugs" only! Plastics are complicated, we know. To make your recycling efforts more manageable - and more accurate - don't look for numbers or "recycling symbols," just recycle bottles (like for water, salad dressing, or shampoo), jars (items with screw-on lids, like for peanut butter, medicines or hand cream), jugs (containers with a molded handle, like for milk or detergent) and tubs (items typically with snap-on lids, like for margarine or coffee, and also includes small buckets). At this time, most other plastic things can NOT be sorted, or there is no end-user market that wants them.
- Don't recycle "clamshell" plastics. This means no hinged containers (including produce containers and salad bins, bakery or deli boxes, takeout containers, etc.), regardless of what number or symbol is imprinted on them. We do not have access to a sorting process or a reliable market for these materials.
- "Styrofoam" is not recyclable. Even if it has a "recycling symbol" on it. No foam packing materials, coffee cups, or takeout containers.
- Leave out plastic wrappers, scraps, and trash. This includes food wrappers (like for candy, granola bars, or single-serve snacks) and food bags (like salad mix bags, potato chip bags, and cereal box liners) as well as small, assorted bits of plastic (like loose caps, balloons, pens, toys, etc.)
It's Not as Complicated as It Might Seem...
We want clean paper and recyclable packaging, and that's It. The curbside recycling program is primarily designed to collect, sort, and sell clean paper and packaging materials (like metal cans and those bottles, jars, jugs, and tubs we mentioned above).
So, other random objects, like pots & pans, electronics, drinking glasses, toys, food, clothing, yard waste, lumber, household goods, etc., should never be placed in a blue recycling cart or bin. (Other recycling programs may accept some of those things, such as our recycling drop-off site.)
Why Isn't Everything Recyclable?
The list of what should be placed in a blue bin isn't determined by the County; it's set by the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that sorts your recyclables and delivers them to the industry buyers that want them.
If there isn't a process to sort an item or technology to identify the material type, or if there isn't a market that wants the material, it doesn't do any good to place that item in your recycling cart. It can actually do great harm to the recycling process.
To learn about how MRFs work and to understand the global impact of contamination (non-recyclables in your blue bin), use the "Resources to Learn More" link on this page.
And remember, when in doubt, don't recycle; throw it out!
Avoid "Wishful Recycling." or "Wishcycling"
Even avid recyclers sometimes make mistakes by placing things that might seem recyclable into a blue bin. Here are the most common items that cause cart contamination...
None of these things are recyclable in a blue bin:
- any types of plastic bags
- disposable cups (like Solo cups, fast food soda cups, and coffee cups), cup lids, and straws
- heat-resistant containers like rotisserie chicken bins or bags, takeout containers, microwave meal trays, etc.
- plastic produce containers
- bakery and deli containers
- coffee pods, single-serve creamer cups
- food bags (such as potato chip bags, frozen food bags, cereal box liners, and salad bags)
- food wrappers (like granola bars, candy, single-serve snacks, etc.)
- toys, pens, and other non-packaging plastic items
- small, individual plastic scraps, like coffee lids, bottle caps, straws, plastic spoons, etc.
- Anything made of "Styrofoam."
- shredded paper (not accepted loose or bagged)
- shiny/metallic paper packaging, cards, or gift wrap
- soiled paper or greasy cardboard
- soft paper products, like napkins, tissues, and paper towels
- anything that isn't a metal can
- pots & pans, forks & knives
- clothes hangers
- electronics & appliances
- cords, chains & wires
- anything that isn't a bottle or jar
- drinking glasses, mugs
- vases, figurines, etc.
- Plates, bowls, etc.
- window or picture frame glass
- food waste
- cigarette butts
- textiles, clothing, towels
- garden hoses
- electric cords and cables
- twine, string, or other "tanglers."
- VHS and audio tapes
- anything made of rubber, vinyl, or PVC
- empty containers that held hazardous or toxic materials
Use the free Recycle Coach app...or, WHEN IN DOUBT, PLEASE JUST THROW IT OUT!