Boston recyclingBackground

Boston is an especially dense East Coast city, so waste seemingly piles up even quicker and more dramatically in these parts. Luckily, Beantown (pop. 636,479) has residential recycling, and leaf and yard waste collection programs. The city’s Waste Reduction Division also holds hazardous waste drop-off days up to four times per year, as well as seasonal paint and motor oil drop-offs, and offers discounted backyard compost bins. Boston recently implemented a “big blue bin” recycling program for single-stream recycling. The demand has been overwhelming, with requests for new bins suspended until March 2012. The city recommends residents convert old trash cans into recycling bins by requesting a city-approved label for placement. Residents of the North End, South End, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, Charlestown, South Boston, East Boston and Roxbury/Dorchester neighborhoods can also use approved 32-gallon plastic bags to place curbside for recycling.

Materials recycled

Paper Including newspaper and inserts, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, white and colored paper bags, telephone books, flattened cardboard boxes, paperback books, milk and juice cartons, juice/soy milk cartons and empty pizza boxes. Plastics All clean plastic containers (lids and labels are OK); rigid plastics like laundry bins, buckets and toys; no Styrofoam or plastic bags Metals Aluminum and steel cans, aluminum foil, pie tins (lids and labels OK) Glass Clean glass bottles and jars (lids and labels OK) Other Cardboard/spiral cans for chips, coffee, nuts, etc.


Curbside pick-up occurs weekly, coinciding with regular trash pick-up. Recycling bins must be placed curbside on the day of pick-up. Day of pick-up depends on location.

Other programs

Boston has a number of extra recycling programs beyond curbside pick-up to help with hard-to-recycle items like household hazardous waste and yard waste. The city collects yard waste multiple times annually to help fertilize city parks and green spaces. Yard waste items must be placed in paper leaf bags or open barrels (no plastic bags). Branches must be tied together and placed next to barrels. All yard waste items must be placed curbside by 7 a.m. on collection day. From May until August each year, the city holds “paint swap shops” to trade unwanted paints and supplies, as well as motor oil drop-off events. The events are open to all Boston residents with proof of residency. Accepted paint swap shop items include latex paint, oil paint, stains and varnishes and paint thinners. Motor oil drop-off events accept used oil (cannot be mixed with anything else). No other auto fluids are accepted. The city holds multiple HHW collection events annually at different locations around town. These events are open to any Boston residents with proof of residency. Items taken include pesticides, paint, tires, auto fluids, car batteries, wood preservatives, herbicides, pool supplies, propane tanks, motor oil and other corrosive materials. 2012 dates and locations will be announced soon. The city does not offer drop-off events for televisions or computer monitors, but will come pick up unwanted items for recycling. Residents can fill out a request form online. Boston even offers subsidized composting bins for its residents. Residents with yards can purchase a backyard bin for $50. Annual bin yield is approximately 200 pounds of nutritious soil. Apartment dwellers can purchase a $10 7-liter kitchen scrap bucket for countertop composting. Composting supplies are available at the Boston Building Materials Co-op (100 Terrace St.).

More information

Visit the City of Boston Waste Reduction Division website for more recycling program info.