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Know Before You Throw!

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Working for Recycling Connections, I often find myself in frequent conversations about recycling. My favorite people are the ones who take one look at our booth or learn what I do and immediately say, “Oh, I recycle everything.” My reply is “Oh, please don’t.”

Everything that is recyclable is not accepted for recycling. You must know what is currently accepted locally. You may notice shifts in what is accepted for recycling in your community every few years, so it is important to know the items currently accepted locally. Changes sometimes happen because markets shift depending on demand for certain materials like glass, paper, metals, and certain plastics at the present time. Or perhaps you moved recently. The collection information will likely be different in each community you live, so do your homework.

By “recycling everything” you may just be creating more inefficiencies, increasing costs for processing recyclables, and actually recycling less as a result.

Know before you throw! Go online and search for your nearest solid waste department to learn what is accepted for recycling in your community. Better yet, find out where your recyclables are sorted. Your solid waste department or hauler should be able to tell you the Materials Recovery Center (MRF) used for sorting recyclables you are putting in your curbside bin. Take a moment to know what is accepted for recycling and follow those rules. Instead of “recycling everything” please learn to “recycle right” and know what to throw, and more importantly, what NOT to throw in your recycle bin. Here are five recommendations from the Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin to help you become a better recycler:

  1. No plastic bags in the curbside cart! Recycle plastic bags at local grocery stores. Never bag recyclables in plastic bags; keep items loose in your bin. For more information, recycling plastic bags, visit

  2. Screw caps on plastic bottles for recycling. Loose caps fall through the system and may actually cause damage to the sorting machinery at the MRF.

  3. No batteries in your curbside bin! Specifically, rechargeable (lithium) batteries can cause fires in the bin and at facilities. Please drop all your batteries at a location that accepts batteries for recycling like Batteries Plus, your local solid waste department, or other collection sites. Did you know: vape pens and e-cigarettes contain lithium batteries; therefore, they need to be disposed properly. They DO NOT go in your bin--neither your curbside garbage or recycle bin. They must be taken to a certified lithium battery recycler.

  4. No electrical cords at the curbside bin. Often called “tanglers,” anything that can wrap around sorting machines and conveyer belts cause problems and potential harm at the MRF. Call your local e-waste or scrap metal collector to recycle your cords.

  5. Cut the Cups. Single use cups such as paper and foam cups are not recyclable in the vast majority of programs. Fewer MRF’s are accepting plastic cups as well. This is also true for paper plates and Styrofoam to-go containers. Put all disposable ware in the trash. These materials have very few markets so, as with all items, check to see if your recycling program is an exception.

Now you are ready to Recycle Right in your community!

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