Curbside Recycling

Preparation and Collection of Accepted and Non-accepted items

Last updated Sep. 01, 2015 - 1:16 pm

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 blue recycling cart 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 carts. You can also check the lid of your blue cart for easy reference. When in doubt, toss it out!

Accepted Plastics

Aseptic Boxes - Sometimes called juice boxes, they are also used for wine, milk and soup. Please remove any straw and flatten it before placing in the recycling container.

Bottles - rinse and screw caps back on.

Clamshells - rinse. Only recycle clear boxes marked "1" or "PETE." These boxes are often used for berries or baked goods.

Tubs - rinse but discard lids. Round and flexible, tubs are commonly used to hold margarine, yogurt and sour cream.

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.

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

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.

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

Polystyrene (Styrofoam or #6 plastic) - This takes many forms, including meat trays, coolers, cups, blocks and coffee-cup lids. Please avoid putting any plastics marked "6" or "PS" in your recycling cart. There is no local market for this material and shipping it to a far away facility would be cost prohibitive.

Frozen Food/Deli Trays, 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.

Rotisserie Chicken Boxes - These containers often have a clear lid and a black bottom. They are made from mixed plastics that are not easily sorted or sold. Please discard in the trash.

Cups (thin) - The ones made of thin brittle plastic shatter easily and are hard to capture at the sorting facility. Please avoid purchasing these cups when possible. "Souvenir cups" made of durable and flexible plastic (like margarine tubs) are recyclable.

Compostable Plastics - 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

Bottles and Jars that held food or beverages are recyclable. Discard any plastic lids or caps before recycling bottles and jars. Metal lids may be placed in the recycling cart. 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. Mirrors, window panes, dishes, and light bulbs are all examples of glass products that should not be recycled in the blue cart.

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 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 should not be recycled through the City of 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.

Not Accepted Cardboard

Boxes with Food Residue - Food is considered a contaminant in the recycling process. Please do not recycle any boxes that contain food.

Accepted Paper

Paper includes

  • junk mail
  • 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.

Newspapers and all inserts, Magazines, Catalogs and Paperback Books - should be removed from plastic bags or sleeves. Recycle the plastic bags at your local grocery store.

Shredded Paper - Do not put loose shredded paper in the recycling cart 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 cart

Paperboard Boxes and Tubes - Examples of paperboard and chipboard include cereal, pasta, toothpaste and beer boxes. Tubes are used for paper towels, toilet paper and wrapping paper.
To prepare:

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

Spiral Paper Cans - no special attention needed. You do not have to remove the metal ends. These cans are commonly used for nuts, refrigerated dough and potato chips.

Not Accepted Paper

Hardback Books - Bindings on books make them difficult to recycle as they contain glue which gums up the recycling equipment in the pulping process. Reuse or donate when possible.

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 and tissues should not be recycled in your blue cart.

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 (e.g. napkins, plates and cups) products can be recycled.
  • Remember to fasten the tie straps on recycling bins and close lids on recycle carts to avoid littering.

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