Curbside Recycling

Preparation and Collection of Accepted and Non-accepted items

Last Modified: October 22, 2013

A successful recycling campaign requires a successful relationship between the City, its residents and the processors who receive, sort, bale and market the material.

Properly prepared recyclables must be placed in the recycling container and put at the curb, not in the street, by 7 a.m. on your designated collection day.

It's imperative that only materials listed below be placed in recycling containers. You can also check the lid of your recycling roll-out cart for easy reference. When in doubt, toss it out!

Accepted Plastics

Most plastic items with resin codes #1 through #5 and #7 and soft plastic beverage rings can be recycled in the City's programs. Plastic caps (not to be confused with plastic flat plastic lids), found on plastic bottles are acceptable and should be screwed back on plastic bottles. Loose caps are lost in the sorting process and swept away as trash. Plastic items should be rinsed lightly.

Aseptic boxes - Commonly called drink boxes and products often include juice, milk and soup. Please remove any straw and flatten it before placing in the recycling container.

Plastic Beverage Rings - Soft beverage rings are only acceptable; the rigid type is also acceptable.

Not Accepted Plastics

In addition to the following items, our recycling program currently does not accept plastic lids, pumps and items that previously contained a hazardous material. Items that contained chemicals, such as a pesticide, pool chemical, automotive fluid, or anything with the poison symbol on it, should be placed in the trash.

Plastic Bags - Most grocery stores have collection boxes. Bags in a sorting facility are a nightmare for jamming equipment!

Plastic Lids - Lids (not to be confused with caps) are the flat covers used on containers such as margarine tubs, sour cream, cream cheese or whipped toppings. Since they are flat they are often mixed with paper at the sorting facility by machinery.

Plastic Motor Oil Bottles - Residual oil can make a mess of the entire batch when it is washed.

Plastic Polystyrene Foam (Styrofoam or #6 plastic) - There is no local market for this material. Shipping it to a far away facility would be cost prohibitive and the GHG emissions created in transporting them are more harmful to the environment than disposing of them.

Frozen Food/Deli Trays, Plastic Plates - These trays and other thin, flat plastic objects are not currently recyclable in our program because they cause a sorting problem at the facility. Because they are flat they get sorted out by machines along with other thin and flat materials (paper!) and end up contaminating the paper bales. Please continue to put these items in the trash.

Plastic Clamshells (berry boxes, etc.) - Clamshells and other thin brittle plastic items are not recyclable because there is no stable market for them at this time. In addition, when they are thrown in the truck and dumped on the sorting floor at the sorting facility they usually get flattened and break into tiny pieces that get swept away as trash. Again, please place them in the trash.

Plastic Cups (thin) - The ones made of thin brittle plastic are not recyclable for the same reason as the clamshells. Please avoid purchasing these cups when possible. "Souvenir "cups" made of durable and flexible plastic (like margarine tubs) are recyclable.

PLA cups or containers - The broad #7 category was designed as a catch-all for "other" plastics. Unfortunately compostable plastics made from bio-based polymers, like cornstarch, are also included in this category and labeled with a #7. Look for the words "PLA, "compostable" or "biodegradable". Please look carefully for that coding and if you see it, DO NOT put it in the recycling container. They are designed to be composted, not recycled!

Accepted Glass

Only food and beverage containers are recyclable. Remove any plastic lids or caps and discard. Metal lids may be placed in the recycling containers. Broken food and beverage containers are acceptable.

Not Accepted Glass

Non-Food Glass Containers - Some manufacturers put chemical stabilizers in the glass containers they make for non-food products. These chemical stabilizers would cause problems in the recycling process.

No mirrors, window panes, dishes, light bulbs.

Accepted Metal

Aluminum Foil and Food Trays - Remove all food residue. Since foil is so thin it will actually be destroyed before any food residue is in the melting process. If you are not willing to clean the foil first, please discard it.

Metal or aluminum food and beverage cans - please lightly rinse before putting in bin. Please place the lids of steel food cans inside the can for safety.

Not Accepted Metal

Metal oil cans or metal containers for non-food products cannot be recycled through the Raleigh's programs. Wake County Convenience Centers and Multi-Material Drop Off Centers have scrap metal boxes for recycling other metal items.

Aerosol Cans - Aerosol cans that are not empty may leak or explode during the sorting and baling processes of recycling. In addition, federal law requires treating pressurized cans as hazardous waste and makes it very costly.

Non-Food Cans - May contain residues from insecticides, herbicides, varnishes, etc. These residues cause problems with the recycling machinery.

Hangers - Hangers jam up the recycling plant equipment that sorts metal cans. Ask your dry cleaner if they will accept the hangers back for reuse. These are also accepted for recycling in the "scrap metal bin" at Wake County Convenience Centers.

Accepted Cardboard

Corrugated cardboard is usually used to make shipping type boxes and has two flat single layers sandwiched around a wavy layer. Prepare the cardboard for recycling as follows:

  • boxes must be completely flattened, not just stepped on and squished down
  • all packing material must be removed, including any glued on Styrofoam liners. (Styrofoam is not accepted)
  • no boxes with food residue
  • cardboard must also be reduced in size to pieces no larger than 3' x 3' in size.
    The reason for this limitation is that is the size of the opening on some recycling trucks and for residents now using carts, so that the cardboard does not become stuck in the cart.
  • if you have more than a box or two tie properly sized pieces into bundles of a manageable size.

Note: Cardboard that is not prepared according to these guidelines will not be collected.

For residents using the 18 gallon recycling bin:

Prepared cardboard can be placed in the bin, stacked on top of other materials in the bin, stacked under the bin, or stacked alongside the bin. If you have more than a couple of boxes be sure to tie the pieces in bundles.

For residents using the 95 or 65 gallon roll carts:

All flattened cardboard must fit inside the cart. Only materials inside the cart will be collected as carts are serviced by a fully automated system and the driver does not get out of the truck. If you have a lot of cardboard, and do not want to reduce it to 3' x 3' pieces, you can remove packing materials, flatten it and take it to one of the City's drop off recycling centers.

Gable Top Cartons - Remove lid and discard, Rinse and flatten.

Not Accepted Cardboard

Pizza Boxes - Food residue, especially oils from the pizza, make these boxes unsuitable for recycling.

Accepted Paper

Paper includes

  • all junk mail you receive (avoid recycling any bold or neon colored paper)
  • envelopes (including window envelopes)
  • copy and fax paper, printed or blank
  • Paper clips should be removed from paper but staples are okay.

Gable top cartons - commonly used as milk, juice and laundry detergent cartons should be rinsed lightly and have their caps removed and discarded.

Aseptic boxes - Commonly called drink boxes and products often include juice, milk and soup. Please remove any straw and flatten it before placing in the recycling container.

Newspapers and all inserts, magazines, catalogs and telephone books - should be removed from plastic bags or sleeves. Recycle the plastic sleeves at your local grocery store.

Shredded Paper - Do not put loose shredded paper in the recycling container where it can end up littering your neighborhood. To properly prepare shredded paper for curbside collection:

  • place shredded paper inside a brown paper bag (not plastic)
  • staple it closed and mark "shredded paper" on the bag
  • place the stapled, marked bag in the recycling container

Paperboard, chipboard, SBS board and paper tubes - Examples of paperboard and chipboard include cereal, pasta, toothpaste and beer boxes. Tubes include ones found in paper towels or toilet paper. SBS stands for solid bleached sulfate and refers to the white layer manufacturers put on the gray or brown paperboard so they can make their product attractive to the consumer.
To prepare:

  • remove any linings (like cereal boxes) or attached paper (tubes)
  • flatten the boxes

Spiral paper cans (nuts, Pringles and Pillsbury are examples) - no special attention needed. You do not have to remove the metal ends.

Not Accepted Paper

Books - Bindings on books make them difficult to recycle as they contain glue which gums up the recycling equipment in the pulping process. Why not practice reuse?

Egg Cartons (lowest grade of paperboard) - Paperboard egg containers are already made from paper that has been recycled several times. The recycled paper fibers have become so short that they are not useful in making new paper products. Fibers simply wash down the drain.

Boxes with wax coatings (where you can scratch wax off with a finger nail) - Examples include some frozen food products.

Unopened Mail - it may contain items such as promotional stickers or product samples, which could make our material unacceptable for recycling. Open the mail and remove unacceptable materials.

Checkbooks, carbon paper, paper with adhesive backing, napkins, tissues or other paper products.

General Curbside Preparation

You can help collection crews by preparing the recyclable materials before putting them in your recycling container. General guidelines include:

  • Lightly rinse glass, metal and plastic containers.
  • Lids of steel food cans should be inside the can for safety.
  • Crush beverage cans.
  • Recyclable items should be free of food debris.
  • No food contaminated paper (like pizza boxes) products can be recycle
  • Remember to fasten the tie straps on recycling bins and close lids on recycle carts to avoid littering.

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