When an item in your blue bin shouldn’t be in that bin, two things happen. First, improperly recycled items can damage the recycling equipment. Second, workers have to remove the incorrectly recycled items and move them to trash bins to be hauled to the landfill, which raises operating costs.
Items that are typically accepted in blue bins without issue are:
- Cardboard with no food stains
- Empty aerosol cans
- Paper and magazines
- Paper and plastic food packaging
- Rinsed metal cans and lids
- Rinsed glass bottles and jars
- Rinsed plastic jars and bottles
While those are commonly recycled items, some recycling facilities have different lists. It’s important to check with your hauler to ensure you’re using the latest recycling policies. They may change from time to time, so you need to make sure you have an updated list. You often find them on the company’s website, but you may need to email or call and ask for one.
What about items that aren’t accepted in your curbside recycling container? Do those go into the trash? No, they shouldn’t. Here are some of the things that are usually not allowed in blue bin recycling programs and what you should do with them.
Never put batteries in your blue bin unless your hauler specifically says it’s allowed. It’s unlikely it will be allowed as a ruptured battery can cause a fire in a recycling truck or at a facility. In early 2023, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s recycling center suffered a massive fire that damaged the facility’s recycling equipment. The fire was caused by a li-ion battery.
If you cannot recycle them through your hauler, save the batteries and bring them to a battery recycling drop box at stores like Home Depot, a local hardware chain, or Lowes. Your recycling facility may also accept them.
To recycle a book in a blue recycling container, the rules are that the book cannot be moldy or have gotten wet. And, you usually have to rip the front and back covers off first. It’s annoying if the book is still in good shape and could be enjoyed by someone else.
There are a few things you can do.
- See if any local charity shops or thrift stores are accepting book donations.
- Post an ad on your town’s social media pages to see if anyone wants a free box of books.
- Put them in a book donation bin at your local library.
- Look for book donation bins on the side of the road for people to take a book or leave a book.
- Sell them online at sites like Decluttr, SellBackYourBook, or Amazon.
Chemicals like household cleaners, paint, automotive fluids, and health and beauty products cannot go into the trash. Save them and bring them to an environmental waste facility. You may need to schedule an appointment, but it’s the right way to recycle these items.
When you have clothing that no longer fits or is no longer needed, bring it to H&M for textile recycling or used clothing sales if the items are in good shape. You’ll get store credit for doing this. Patagonia and The North Face also accept clothing for recycling.
The North Face’s recycling program, Close the Loop, accepts gently worn clothing and shoes. You get a $10 store credit towards your next purchase of $100 or more.
Only half of the states in the U.S. have clear policies in place to ban electronics from the landfill, but electronics are hazardous waste and shouldn’t be thrown out. This includes small appliances, cables, old cell phones, computer components, etc.
Bring up to three used electronics to retailers like Best Buy or Staples each day for proper recycling. You can also bring electronics to your local recycling center or a town-wide e-waste recycling event.
If those options are not feasible given your work schedule or location, there are still some options available to you. Some manufacturers offer take-back programs where they will pay for the shipping to have their old computers, TVs, printers, etc. returned to them.
If you have a Best Buy nearby, look into their $199.99 Standalone Haul-Away program where they come to your home and haul away two large appliances and unlimited smaller ones. It’s a handy way to get rid of an old dryer and refrigerator while also getting rid of your computers, printers, tablets, clocks, DVD players, headphones, remotes, cables, fans, vacuums, cellphones, e-readers, etc.
Another option is to order an electronics recycling box from ERI. You pay a fee for the box, and that fee covers the shipping and proper recycling of your electronics. ERI is a certified ITAD e-recycler you can trust to recycle your items in a secure, safe manner that protects your sensitive data, the environment, and ERI’s workers.
Vermont was the first state to mandate food recycling/composting, and California soon followed. Many other cities have also started requiring mandatory recycling of food waste. You might find your hauler offers a pick-up program where you have a secondary container to fill with your food waste and have it composted instead of taking up space in a landfill.
If you are unable to compost your food waste through your city or town’s recycling facility, there are easy ways to do it at home that don’t require a lot of space. A barrel composter is just a few feet wide, a few feet high, and a couple of feet wide. It will easily fit on a deck or patio. Put your vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds/tea leaves in the container and spin the barrel around each day.
There are also small worm composters where you house some worms and have them eat your vegetable scraps. Shredded cardboard or newspaper are good bedding materials for your worms. Once they’ve started breaking things down, their castings are great for adding nutrients to your small garden.
Recycle your plastic film products, such as bubble wrap, plastic grocery and produce bags, plastic food wrap, air pillows, padded mailers, cereal bags, etc. Furnishings or mattresses that you purchase often come in clear plastic bags or shrink wrap, those bags are all recyclable, so save them up.
When you go to your grocery store to do your shopping, a green plastic recycling bin is likely near the bottle redemption area or in the lobby. This bin is a drop-off for plastic film recycling. Find your nearest recycling bin at BagandFilmRecycling.org.
Styrofoam is rarely recyclable. Before you throw it away, check with your local UPS Store or local retailers that ship items. They’ll often take mailing supplies like Styrofoam peanuts, air pillows, and bubble wrap to cut back on business costs. Some cities have drop-off bins for clean Styrofoam, too.
Get in the Habit of Doing Your Research
The best practice is to look up items you’re not sure should go into your trash, recycling container, or a separate box for alternate recycling options. While it is time-consuming, it keeps items that contain heavy metals, plastics, or chemicals from leaching into the groundwater and soil.
Recycle Nation makes it a little easier. Enter your ZIP, the item you’re not sure where it goes, and get instant results that include contact information and driving directions to the place that will accept it. The Recycle Search tool makes it easy to recycle correctly, and you’re helping to protect the environment when you take the time to look items up.