Frequently Asked Questions
Commingled Containers - Back to Top
Q: If a product has the three arrows symbol on it, doesn't that mean it's recyclable?
A. No. The three arrows symbol is not an indication that an item can be recycled. The recycling symbol is unregulated, meaning that no authority controls who places the symbol on what product, be it recyclable or not.
* The plastics industry uses the recycling symbol as an “in house” coding system to identify resin types. If you ask the plastics industry, they’ll tell you that the coding system isn’t intended for consumer use or to indicate recyclability.
Of course, good recyclers are trained to look for the recycling symbol so it leads to confusion, but unfortunately you cannot use the symbol to determine whether or not a material is recyclable. Instead, you need to follow the guidelines for your community, not the labeling on the product. Technically, almost everything manufactured could be recyclable if there was a reliable end-buyer for the material. The existence of a recycling market is typically dependent upon a manufacturer buying the product back for remanufacture. When an industry distributes a product and then uses virgin materials to manufacture new products, it creates a glut of material without a recycling market. Therefore, for a material to be recyclable, there has to be a demand for it on the market, and that’s what determines what can and cannot be accepted.
On a related note: When you see a recycling symbol on a product to indicate that it is MADE from recycled content, you can trust that it was (though again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is RECYCLABLE). We strongly encourage you to buy products with recycled content to further stimulate the market for recycled materials.
Plastics - Back to Top
Q: If I can recycle a #1 soda bottle, why can’t I recycle everything with a #1?
A. The number on the bottom identifies only the type of plastic resin—it tells you nothing about how the product was made. Different manufacturing processes are used to make plastic bottles, tubs, and soccer balls, and these manufacturing processes give the plastics different properties such as melting points. It is not simply the number that determines whether the plastic is recyclable, but rather your community guidelines. Our community can recycle all plastic bottles, tubs and screw-top jars numbered #1-7 in your curbside recycling bin (no plastic lids or caps; no plastic bags; no foam; no #7 PLA bottles or containers.)
Q: Do I need to take the caps and lids off plastic containers before I recycle them? Can the caps be recycled as well?
A. Remove the caps and lids from all plastic bottles and jugs (and tubs) before recycling the containers. Plastic caps have a different melting point than other recyclable plastics and will contaminate the load. Throw away or find a creative way to reuse plastic caps—they make great paint or glue holders for small projects.
Q: Do I need to remove the plastic ring that is left around the neck of a plastic bottle when I remove the cap?
A. No, you do not need to remove it. The recycling center is allowed a minimal amount of “contamination” in our materials to account for things like the plastic ring and the label on the product.
Q: Can I recycle yogurt containers and dairy/deli tubs?
A. Yes. These containers are a tub shape and are accepted through curbside recycling.
Q: Can prescription or vitamin bottles be recycled?
A. Yes, we can accept prescription and vitamin bottles in curbside recycling. Please remove the lids and any personal information from the label.
Q: Is a #2 bottle that had motor oil in it recyclable?
A. No – motor oil actually seems into the plastic that contains it slightly making it almost impossible to get all the oil back out of the plastic containers when recycling it. It’s extremely cost prohibitive.
Mixed Paper - Back to Top
Q: Why can’t I recycle neon/fluorescent/Astrobrite/dark-colored paper? How about construction paper?
A. These dark or super-bright papers are made with beater dyes, so named because they beat the dye into the fiber of the paper to get a dark or fluorescent color. Because there is so much ink in the fiber, it cannot be recycled in our recycling program because it is not possible to remove all the color from the paper in the recycling process. Dark paper may still be recyclable if the ink is printed on the paper as opposed to beaten into the paper fiber (for example, a brochure printed on light paper with dark ink). To tell the difference, tear a corner of the paper. If the color goes all the way through, it can’t be recycled. If there are white fibers inside, it can be recycled with office paper.
Q: Can I recycle books?
A. Yes, we charge for this service as it costs money to take the bindings off the books one by one – we usually charge by the pallet. 2009 prices were $50 for a large pallet of books. Reusing or donating books to libraries, schools and non-profits is highly encouraged first if possible.
Q: Can I recycle shiny cardboard, and if so, are staples or tape a problem?
A. Shiny or glossy cardboard can be recycled with regular cardboard. Staples and tape are not problems—they’ll come out in the screens during the sorting process. If you can tear off wads of tape, please do, but removing staples is unnecessary.
Q: What is waxy cardboard?
A. Large produce boxes used by grocery stores have a wax coating used to prevent contamination and infestation. You can tell the difference between waxy and shiny cardboard with a simple test. If you run your fingernail up the side of the box and a layer of wax peels off, you have waxy cardboard that must be thrown away or composted. Shiny cardboard can be recycled with regular cardboard.
Q: Can I recycle paperboard containers used to hold food such as to-go boxes?
A. No. While a little food on commingled containers can be handled, any food on paper will contaminate the paper bales. At the mills, baled paperboard may sit around for a while waiting for the market. Food remnants within the bale could begin to biodegrade the paper. Food contamination in the paperboard category is a BIG problem for that market.
Q: Can I recycle cardboard pizza boxes?
A. Pizza boxes, while they do hold food, can be recycled. Made of corrugated cardboard, pizza boxes are a high-grade material that moves quickly through the market. However, we cannot accept pizza boxes soaked in grease and covered with cheese. If the box has lots of grease and cheese, tear that part off and throw it away (or compost it) and recycle the remaining part. And please wipe away any sauce or crumbs before tossing the box in the bin.
Glass - Back to Top
Q: Can I recycle drinking glasses, window glass, dinner plates, porcelain mugs, mirror glass, canning jars, and Pyrex?
A. No. These are all different types of glass with different melting points. Just one of these items could contaminate an entire load of recyclable glass. Only glass bottles and jars are acceptable. (Metal bottle caps and lids are also recyclable; please remove the metal caps from the containers and recycle them loose in the bin.)
Aluminum/Steel (tin) - Back to Top
Q: How clean does foil need to be so it can be recycled?
A. Clean. Small (really small) amounts of food are allowed, but cheese and other oily foods are a problem and should be completely removed. Food left on foil will spoil between recycling collection and reuse, turning a bale of recycled foil into a stinking mess.
Q: What is the proper way to recycle aluminum foil?
A. Foil should be balled to at least two inches in size or larger. Smaller pieces get caught in with the paper products and may end up as trash.
Q: Are all metal caps okay, even if they have plastic or rubber on them?
A. All metal caps can be recycled in with the commingled containers, even if they have plastic or rubber on them. Please remove the metal caps from their containers and recycle them loose in your bin (unattached from the glass bottle or jar). They will be pulled out by magnets when processed.
Q: If I can recycle steel cans and aluminum, why can’t I just throw all metal objects in with my commingled containers?
A. Commingled containers are processed through conveyer belts and equipment specifically designed for containers. When a piece of metal comes through in the wrong shape, it has the potential to jam the equipment, possibly ripping the conveyer belts and causing very expensive damage. Even though these metal products may be made of the same material as commingled containers, they are not going to the same market. That means if your scrap metal does somehow make it through the commingled system without causing damage, it’s coming through at the wrong place and will need to be picked out by hand and taken to the other side of the facility—not exactly the most cost-efficient method.
Paper Cartons/Drink Boxes - Back to Top
Q: Can I recycle milk and juice cartons? What about soy milk and drink boxes?
A. Yes, paper milk and juice cartons go in the commingled container bin. This includes soy milk and juice cartons found in the refrigerated section. Cartons should not be recycled as paperboard. There is no need to remove the plastic spouts.
Milk and juice cartons refer to the paper containers which are found in the refrigerated section and must be kept refrigerated. These are not the same as non-refrigerated aseptic containers used for packaging soups, soy milk, etc.
Q: Can I recycle cartons with a foil lining?
A. Yes. Many non-refrigerated juice and beverage cartons have a foil lining on the inside, a plastic polymer lining on the outside, and paper on the inside. These layers are challenging to separate for recycling but we are accepting them. These aseptic cartons are designed such that the products do not have to be refrigerated until the container is opened, which saves energy by avoiding refrigerated transportation and makes these products an environmental plus.
Q: Can I recycle frozen food containers such as frozen TV dinner boxes and ice cream cartons?
A. No. Frozen food containers (such as frozen TV dinner boxes, etc.) appear the same as juice or milk boxes but they are not. Frozen food containers are sprayed with a plastic coating that protects the contents against freezer burn. Paperboard is recycled by mixing it with water in a giant blender to create a pulp. But fiber sprayed with a plastic polymer won’t pulp up, and instead it becomes a contaminant that needs to be fished out and thrown away. However, paperboard boxes for products designed to go in the refrigerator, like paperboard butter boxes, can be recycled.
Q: Some of our waxy paper cartons for things like milk or orange juice have plastic spouts. Is it necessary to cut those out?
A. No, These are pulped in the process of recycling at the plant and actually get forced through screens where spouts and other contaminates are removed.