Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of recycling topics we receive questions about most often. Click the question to reveal the answer. If you cannot find what you’re looking for, please try searching the site using the search bar or contact Customer Service.

Recycling FAQs

What is single stream (commingled) recycling?

Single stream recycling, also known as commingled recycling, refers to a system in which all paper fibers and containers are mixed together in a receptacle and collection truck. This drastically differs from other recycling programs where the resident is required to manually separate each commodity (newspaper, cardboard, plastic, glass, etc.) and place them into different containers. In single stream, both the collection and processing systems must be designed to handle this fully combined mixture of recyclables.

What are the advantages to single stream recycling?

Single stream programs reduce the effort required of residents to participate, which normally results in more recyclables placed at the curb. This type of program also reduces the significant collection costs as single-compartment trucks are cheaper to purchase and operate, collection can be more automated, and routes can be serviced more efficiently. Greater fleet flexibility allows single-compartment vehicles to be used for refuse or recycling; thus, reducing the number of reserve vehicles needed. Single stream may also allow for new materials and more paper grades to be collected, including junk mail, telephone books, and mixed residential paper.

What does Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mean?

Recycling has been the buzz word in solid waste services for several years. The terms "reduce" and "reuse" have not been as prevalent in recent decades, yet they are equally important in dealing with refuse management throughout the world. Many people mistakenly think that creating more garbage is permissible since they believe it will be recycled instead of choosing to reduce or reuse the solid waste generated at home and work. Reduction of solid waste involves purchasing and using less material and packaging. Buying concentrate or even purchasing in bulk reduces the potential amount of waste in your garbage or recycling. For example, buying juice in concentrate form (usually in a small container) and then adding water later reduces the need to use large plastic containers for the same liquid. Just as important is reusing as much material and packaging as possible. Ceramic instead of paper cups, taking and reusing plastic bags at the grocery store, or making bird feeders from soda bottles are all examples of reuse.

Do I have to wash my recyclables?

All recyclables must be relatively clean, empty, and dry. This does not mean to put them through a dishwasher. This is especially important during drought periods. Examples of relatively clean, empty, and dry would be a mayonnaise jar that has been wiped clean of residue with a spatula or emptying a soda bottle completely in the sink. Both of those are clean and dry enough. Normally a good rinse will suffice; a little residue at the top of a bottle, for example, is fine. Just try to remove all food bits.

Do I need to take the labels off jars and cans?

No need to waste water and energy struggling with stubborn, gummy labels. These will be burned off during the recycling process.

Why are plastic grocery bags not accepted?

Ready markets for plastic bags do exist; however, all plastic bags (a.k.a. film plastic) are not made of the same plastic and are virtually impossible to sort using the current processing technology. Plastic bags wrap themselves around the conveyor belt rollers and damage processing equipment. Due to these processing problems and the dirty/contaminated condition of plastic bags in a commingled program, they are not recyclable in the program. Everyone is encouraged to reuse plastic bags as much as possible, whether it be reusing them to bag and tie your garbage and grass, or reusing them at the grocery store. In addition, most grocery stores have installed plastic bag recycling programs. Utilize these programs and please DO NOT place plastic bags in your recycling container.

What really happens to the recyclables after they are collected?

Recyclables are taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where they are sorted, contaminants removed, and the materials are bailed for shipping. Once materials are sorted, they are sent to recyclers throughout the United States and the world, depending on the availability of markets.

Can aluminum foil be recycled with cans?

Technically it can, but not all foil can be accepted because of food contamination. If you wish to recycle your aluminum foil please make sure it is clean and clear of any food particles or residue.

If something is made from recycled paper or plastic, can it be recycled again?

While it is true that recycling paper and plastic over and over will degrade the quality, that does not mean it cannot be recycled. Many recycled products contain a percentage of both virgin and post-consumer recycled content, and it would be quite difficult for you to know whether it is "recycle worthy." Even if the product does contain recycled content, it CAN be recycled again.

When glass, paper, and cans are recycled, they become similar products that can be used and recycled over and over again. With plastics recycling, however, there is usually only a single reuse. Most bottles and jugs do not become food and beverage containers again. For example, pop bottles might become carpet or stuffing for sleeping bags. Milk jugs are often made into plastic lumber, recycling bins, and toys. This makes plastic a great starting place for reducing your reliance on single-use containers, such as plastic water bottles – carry a cool reusable drinking container such as metal water bottles instead.

In the case of paper, the quality of the recycled paper fibers is assessed at the mill. The higher-quality fibers are used to create more recycled paper while the shorter, lower-quality fibers are turned into things like toilet paper, paper towels, and cereal boxes.

Why can’t I recycle broken glasses with my glass bottles and jars?

The combination of ingredients used to make glassware is different from what goes into container glass for bottles and jars. If these two types of glass are recycled together, the resulting glass will not be suitable for container glass. In fact, glassware, ceramics, window panes, or mirrors can pose a threat to equipment in a glass recycling plant.