What we recycle might surprise you

Last Updated: 6/4/2015

The One Big Bin idea brings up a lot of questions. You know that you put all trash into a single container. You know your trash is taken to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), where machines and people sort through it to pull out recyclables. But do you know what gets recycled—and what doesn’t?

Yes, we can recycle that

  • Christmas lights and other stringed lights
  • CD and DVD discs
  • Sink fixtures and door knobs
  • Bottle caps, paper clips, nails, screws, metal utensils and other small metal items
  • PVC and ABS pipe
  • Carpet and padding

No, we can’t recycle that

There are plenty of things we can’t send to recyclers, however, and knowing what those are can help you make good buying decisions. Here’s the list of items we can’t recycle:

Food waste: For now, food waste must be sent to the landfill. That may change in the future, though, as we explore adding food-waste composting to our operations.

Waxed containers: Juice boxes, milk cartons, and other waxed boxes that hold soy milk, almond milk, broths, and other soups: There’s no cost-effective way to remove wax or separate foil from paper for recycling.

Single-use plastic bags and cellophane-film wrapping: Technically, both can be recycled, but it’s almost impossible to pull them from the waste stream. They also become entangled with other trash and mechanical sorting equipment, creating a real mess. Consider holding onto the bags and reusing them around the house. Better yet, avoid the bags altogether by bringing reusable bags with you when you shop.

Disposable diapers: Some clever folks successfully recycled diapers in Scotland in 2013, turning them into cardboard fiber and plastic pellets, but the technology is still in its infancy (pun intended) and the idea has yet to catch on in the U.S.

Expanded polystyrene or EPS (the stuff they use to make Styrofoam®) Packing peanuts, protective packaging, and containers, such as egg cartons: We can’t recycle it, but you can. The problem is that EPS can only be recycled if it’s perfectly clean and free of contaminants—and nothing arrives at the MRF in that condition after a trip in the garbage truck. But you can take clean, contaminant-free EPS (marked with a 6 inside a triangle)—including food containers and egg cartons—to one of Roseville’s recycling drop-off sites for EPS. The drop-off sites don’t accept packing peanuts, but you can take them to packing and shipping stores. The stores are usually happy to reuse foam peanuts because it saves them from buying new ones.

Old clothing and shoes: Instead of tossing your gently-used clothes and shoes, donate these items to a charity thrift store