Recycling Education

You can help us recycle the most materials overall by following our recycling guidelines here
Read more below to learn why certain materials are not able to be placed in your recycling bin.

Contaminated Cardboard

WHY NOT: For all the reasons that food waste can't be recycled, cardboard with any food contamination also can't be recycled. Any paper-based food packaging that is in direct contact with food waste can't be processed since the oils seep into all layers of the cardboard. Other types of cardboard can't be recycled as a result of the wax or plastic coatings used to decorate or seal them.

ALTERNATIVES: Try buying food items in bulk when possible. For products like milk, it's better to buy plastic containers that can be rinsed out and recycled rather than wax-coated cartons that cannot. 

READ MORE: Read more about why pizza boxes and other food-contaminated items can't be recycled here.


Contaminated Paper

WHY NOT: While a lot of paper can be recycled, certain additives like some dyes, lamination, glitter, foil, plastic additives, and tape can make it impossible.

ALTERNATIVES: There are many ways to cut down on your use of paper that can't be recycled. Instead of buying wrapping paper, wrap your gifts in old newspaper or opt for reusable wrapping like bags. Rather than throwing out old books, sell them to resellers or donate them to your local library.

READ MORE: Check out this list of places to donate old books here and read about creative reusable giftwrap options here.


Plastic Films

WHY NOT: Plastic bags get tangled in our sorting equipment, causing the entire facility to be shut down which reduces our efficiency and can endanger our workers.

ALTERNATIVES: You can recycle plastic bags at participating grocery or retail stores or get into the habit of using reusable shopping bags. You can also cut back on single-use plastic products like plastic wrap and sandwich bags and opt for reusable alternatives. When you do use these materials, they will need to be placed in the trash rather than with the recyclables. 

READ MORE: You can find plastic bag recycling locations here.


Pressurized Containers

WHY NOT: Tanks that contain flammable materials, like propane tanks or gas cans, cannot be processed by our facility and need to be disposed of with other hazardous household waste items. They also create a fire hazard if they are introduced to our sorting equipment.

ALTERNATIVES: Many fuel tanks can be recycled by gas or propane retailers. You can find trade-in locations here.

READ MORE: Find out more from the PA DEP on fuel tank disposal here

Tanglers

WHY NOT: Like the name suggests, items like cords, hoses, and ropes all get tangled around our sorting equipment, causing the entire facility to be shut down which reduces our efficiency and can endanger our workers.

ALTERNATIVES: If you need to dispose of tanglers, they should be placed in the trash. You can also get creative and find ways to reuse hoses or ropes. A quick search for “ways to reuse garden hoses” or projects you can make with rope will turn up hundreds of new ideas!

READ MORE: Here’s a list to get you started with creative uses for your old garden hoses.

E-Waste

WHY NOT: Because of certain hazardous components, electronic devices cannot be recycled by a regular recycling facility. They must be processed through specialized, properly permitted facilities. 

ALTERNATIVES: Electronics should not be placed in the trash since by law they cannot be placed in landfills. Counties in each state host yearly collection events to allow you to dispose of E-waste items at little or no cost. Another great way to lessen your e-waste? Try fixing your devices to make them last longer! You can repair guides for all kinds of devices here.

READ MORE: Find out more about electronics disposal from the PA DEP here

Large Plastics

WHY NOT: Plastic toys are often composed of plastics that can’t be recycled, along with other materials or paints/coatings. Even if some components are recyclable, they cannot be easily separated out. 

ALTERNATIVES: The easiest solution to recycle old toys is to donate them. To eliminate other items like plastic hangers, be sure to remove hangers before purchasing new clothing, since most retailers reuse hangers that remain in-store. Otherwise, these materials must be placed in the trash.

READ MORE: Organizations like Play it Forward Pittsburgh hold events each year where you can take toy donations.


Batteries

WHY NOT: Because of the materials in batteries, they must be recycled through specialized facilities. They also cause a fire hazard if introduced into our sorting equipment.

ALTERNATIVES: Batteries should not be placed in the trash. The materials in batteries are toxic when they aren’t properly dealt with. One easy solution is to switch to rechargeable batteries as much as possible. You can find recycling locations for all types of batteries at Earth911.

READ MORE: Find out more from the PA DEP on battery disposal and recycling here.


Food Waste

WHY NOT: Food waste can actually reduce the recyclability of other materials. This is why items like pizza boxes cannot be recycled even though they are made of cardboard. Food waste can also attract animals and insects that carry disease.

ALTERNATIVES: Food waste should be placed in the trash. Composting is also a great option to reduce your food waste and get nutrient-rich material for gardening!

READ MORE: For more about backyard composting or compost drop-off locations, check out this page by the PA DEP.


Hazardous Waste

WHY NOT: Hazardous waste materials cannot be safely recycled by most organizations. They need to be processed by specialized facilities.

ALTERNATIVES: Hazardous waste materials cannot be placed in the trash since they can pose a serious hazard to the environment if they are placed in a landfill. Counties in each state host yearly collection events to allow you to dispose of hazardous waste items at little or no cost.

READ MORE: Find out more from the PA DEP on household hazardous waste disposal here


Scrap Metal

WHY NOT: Scrap metal items can damage the sorting equipment.

ALTERNATIVES: You can search for scrap metal recycling locations near you. Depending on the material, some locations may even pay you for these materials. If you are unsure about certain items, be sure to call the scrap metal recycler to see if they will accept your item.

READ MORE: Find out more about metal recycling from Earth911 here.


Textiles

WHY NOT: Textiles can get tangled around our sorting equipment, causing the entire facility to be shut down which reduces our efficiency and can endanger our workers.

ALTERNATIVES: One of the best options for getting rid of old clothing and textiles is to donate them. By donating, you can reduce your own waste and help people in need. You can search for drop-off locations near you to find organizations in your area.

READ MORE: Find out more about donating your clothing and other items to Goodwill here.