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17 Items That Cannot Go in Your Recycle Bin & How to Sustainably Dispose of Them

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021 by Erin Dougherty


17 Items That Cannot Go in Your Recycle Bin & How to Sustainably Dispose of Them

There are a ton of items that cannot go into your curbside recycling bin but do not need to be adding to our landfills either. While some things truly cannot be recycled, most of these unaccepted items can be!

The items below are on James City County’s list of waste that cannot be put in your curbside recycle bin. We looked up the best ways to safely and sustainably dispose of these items and added in some handy links to help you get the job done!

  1. Plastic bags: grocery, dry cleaning, garbage, sandwich bags, plastic wrap
  2. Greasy paper: pizza boxes
  3. Wax–covered fiber: milk cartons & juice boxes, candy wrappers, some packing paper
  4. Napkins, paper towels, tissues
  5. Twine, string, wire
  6. Ceramic dishes or ovenware
  7. Light bulbs: fluorescent and regular
  8. Needles or other medical waste
  9. Clothes hangers, lawn chair frames, pots & pans, other scrap metal
  10. Paint & aerosol cans
  11. Any plastic pesticide, poison, automotive product containers
  12. Foam plastic products: Styrofoam® cups, plates, packing materials
  13. Diapers, other personal care products
  14. Yard waste & debris
  15. Plastic bottle caps
  16. Yogurt cups
  17. Clamshell containers: strawberry & blueberry packaging

Plastic bags: grocery, dry cleaning, garbage, sandwich bags, plastic wrap – while grocery bags can not be put in your curbside recycle bin, your local grocery store probably has a grocery bag recycling program. Next time you head to the store, take those bags with you, and drop them in the bin on your way in!

Greasy paper: pizza boxes – Any part of your pizza box that is soiled with grease cannot be recycled, but often the top, which does not get greasy can be cut or torn off and placed in the recycle bin. Unfortunately, the greasy parts will have to go in the trash bin. (It typically takes about 90 days for a pizza box to finish decomposing in a landfill.)

Wax–covered fiber: milk cartons & juice boxes, candy wrappers, some packing paper – while these items are not accepted by the county for recycling, there are plenty of ways to repurpose them. They can be composted, used for seed starters for your garden, and used for summer arts and crafts projects to keep the kids and grandkids entertained.

Napkins, paper towels, tissues the cores of paper towels and toilet paper are recyclable as well as the cardboard tissue box. However, the tissues and paper towels should not be recycled because they come into contact with food waste, grease, and bodily fluids. These items only take about 2-4 weeks to decompose in our landfills, which is less time than most fruit and vegetables!

Twine, string, wire – Twine cannot be thrown in your recycle bin but if it’s in good condition you can always add it to your tool bag, use it for craft projects, or look online for companies that recycle the material. As for wires, we all have a nest of charger cables and wires laying around somewhere. Many Best Buy locations take old electronics to recycle them. You can also check with local STEM programs to see if the old electronics can be used for educational purposes.

Ceramic dishes or ovenware if these items are in good condition, donate them! Because their emissions from the break down process of the material is toxic, they cannot be thrown into your recycle bin. However, you can smash them up and use them for a mosaic project such as a flowerpot, or stepping stones in your garden!

Light bulbs: fluorescent and regular While fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and are therefore hazardous to the environment, do not thrown them in the trash! Check organizations like your local Lowes, your local hazardous waste event, or the American Lighting Association. They will often accept these items and safely recycle or dispose of them for you.

Needles or other medical waste these items pose safety and health risks to sanitation workers and your household if not properly disposed of. Check your county website for the proper disposal method of needles and medical waste in your area. James City County’s guidelines can be found here: https://jamescitycountyva.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=166&ARC=6727

Clothes hangers, lawn chair frames, pots & pans, other scrap metal while these items cannot go in your recycle bin they can be recycled. Take them to your local recycling drop off location to be safely disposed of! If clothes hangers or pots and pans are in good condition, take them to your local donation center where they can be reused.

Paint & aerosol cans Look up your city’s next hazardous waste event and drop off aerosol and pant cans instead of throwing them in the trash.  Check out this site for your county’s collection day: http://www.vppsa.org/services/#chemical (James City County, Poquoson, Williamsburg, York County)

Any plastic pesticide, poison, automotive product containers - Look up your city’s next hazardous waste event and drop off any lawn and garden, household cleaning, automotive products, or even fluorescent light bulbs instead of throwing them into our landfills.  Check out this site for your county’s collection day: http://www.vppsa.org/services/#chemical (James City County, Poquoson, Williamsburg, York County)

Foam plastic products: Styrofoam® cups, plates, packing materials items like packing materials can be saved and reused, or taken to a local shipping center to be reused. Styrofoam does not biodegrade; this means it just takes up space in our landfills. The best way to eliminate and reduce Styrofoam waste is by not using it at all.

Diapers, other personal care products unfortunately, these items need to go in the trash. But it does not mean there is not a proper way to dispose of them. Check for directions on the package or run a quick google search on how to safely throw away soiled diapers and other personal care products.

Yard waste & debris these items can be disposed of different ways, they are biodegradable, so you can use trimmings as moisturizing mulch, add the items to your compost pile, and some trash pick-up services require the items be in a clear plastic yard waste bag so that they can be diverted to a composting facility. Either way, there is no need for these items to go in the landfill.

Plastic bottle caps Because these caps are often not the same material as the container they are attached to, they cannot be recycled. Check out this article from Earth 911 about how you can recycle plastic bottle caps safely https://earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-plastic-caps-lids/

Yogurt cups while many of these plastic cups are not taken by our local recycling centers, there are places you can take them for recycling. Check with your local Whole Foods. Many of their locations participate in a takeback program called Gimme 5, if your local store does not participate you can send them to Gimmie 5 yourself. Learn more here: https://www.preserve.eco/pages/gimme5-overview

Clamshell containers: strawberry & blueberry packaging these items are recyclable but are not accepted by most recycling centers! Check out Earth 911 for where you can take these containers for proper disposal  https://search.earth911.com/?utm_source=earth911-header.

 

Want to sustainably dispose of, recycle, and donate items in your home?  The Junkluggers will pick up all of these items (and so much more), sort them, and properly dispose of them!

 

You can find information on James City County’s Curbside Recycling Program here: https://jamescitycountyva.gov/DocumentCenter/View/26387/Curbside-Program-2020-PDF

 

What is Earth 911?

Earth 911 is a resource for North America that compiles websites, hotlines, and other information resources to help you find the best way to recycle items in your community. The site lets you punch in an item and zip code to see where you can take materials that cannot go in your recycle bin for proper disposal. If you are not sure how to dispose of something visit their site: https://search.earth911.com/?utm_source=earth911-header

Related Categories: junk removal, recycle

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