Let’s keep our recyclables clean!

Keep recyclables clean!
December 26, 2018
  |   88 Comments

Updated: May 2021

 

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection’s Recycle and Resource Management Division has seen an increase in the amount of non-recyclable items being erroneously placed in curbside recycling bins and carts. These materials can contaminate recyclable materials, rendering them no longer recyclable, and can also impact sorting operations at Montgomery County’s Recycling Center. While some of these items can be recycled through other recycling opportunities, they should not be placed in your blue recycling bin or blue-wheeled cart for curbside recycling collection.

 

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Right

 

New Series on YouTube! Is This Recyclable?

In this series, we answer your questions about how to recycle Plastic Containers, Plastic Bags, Glass Bottles, Foam Packaging, Batteries, and Aluminum in Montgomery County Maryland.

Watch the New Series on YouTube!

 

The items we most often see inappropriately placed in blue recycling bins or mixed paper recycling carts, and that we want to remind residents NOT to put in their recycling bin/cart are:

 

Also, please remember to empty and rinse all bottles, jars, cans and containers before placing these items in the recycling bin. Caps and lids should be left off the bottles, jars and containers, before placing them in the blue bin as well.

 

For materials that are not acceptable through the County’s curbside recycling program, there may be other opportunities to recycle those materials. To learn how to properly recycle or properly dispose of these materials, visit our website and click on “I want to recycle or dispose of…”. You can also call MC311 by dialing 311 or (240) 777-0311; TTY Maryland Relay 711.



88 comments on "Let’s keep our recyclables clean!"

  1. Kathy says:

    What about the shelf stable beverage containers – some kind of paper on outide but layers of non paper materials. I keep seeing on FB and ads that they are recyclable but are they recyclable in MoCo??

  2. Cat says:

    Thanks for your question, could you send us a photo at askdep@montgomerycountymd.gov or post a link to a picture of the shelf stable beverage container?

  3. Debbie Cohn says:

    I have several household and personal care products made from cellulose or silk. I want to know if any of these are recyclable and if so, how.
    1. Used dental floss made from silk fibers.

    2. Household cleaning sponge (for kitchen or bath) made from rayon which was made from bamboo.

    3. Household cleaning sponge (or personal care sponge) made from loofah.

    4. Three types of tooth brush. Two of the brushes have a handle made from bamboo. Can the handle be recylced? One brush uses boar’s hair bristles. The other brush uses a plant based nylon bristle. The bristles can be separated from the handle. Can either type of bristle be recylced and if so, how?

    The third toothbrush uses a handle made from cellulose sourced from timber. It has vegetable derived bristles. The brush head containing the bristles is replaceable and the handle can be reused. Can the vegetable derived bristles be recycled? Would these be placed in the yard waste stream and composted or do I need to wait for curbside pickup of food waste? If the reusable handle at a later point needed to be replaced, can the timber sourced cellulose handle be recycled? Would this be recycled as yard waste, textile waste delivered to the textile bin at Shady Grove or curbside recycling of food waste?

    I know these are lots of questions. I am trying to switch to non-plastic household and personal care items. Thanks for the help.

    1. Cat says:

      Thanks for getting in touch–great questions! At this time, the items listed are not accepted in our recycling program and may be added to your regular household trash. Again, thanks for the great questions and for your plastic reduction efforts!

    2. Sreya Sinha says:

      None of these are easily recyclable. Most of these items (everything except the rayon sponge and nylon brush bristle) are compostable. The plant based bristles MAY be compostable in an industrial composting facility but you should check with the manufacturer.

      I am also on a journey of trying to switch to non-plastic household items, and am finding that the best options are either completely reusable or compostable at the end of their lifespan. My building uses the Compost Crew for our compost pickup, but you can band together with some neighbors to negotiate a group rate with them.

    1. Cat says:

      Thanks for the link to the article. Our recycled materials are sold to commodity brokers on a monthly basis. Although we do not track the end user once it leaves our facility, virtually all of our material remains domestically. As a general rule, only mixed paper is sold to international markets but that is through commodity brokers and not tracked by the County.

  4. Andrea says:

    So caps and lids taken off bottles and containers should be just discarded in the regular trash or in the comingled bin with plastic, glass and metal?

    1. Cat says:

      Please place your caps and lids in the blue recycling bin along with your other recyclables. Check out our blue bin page: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sws/recycling/blue-bin-items.html.

  5. Mary says:

    One acquaintance puts her cans and bottles in the dishwasher. I have an “eco” cycle and was considering the same, as the raccoons drag my recycle all over the yard. It’s hard to keep them clean. It’s a problem.

    1. Cat says:

      Hi, thanks for getting in touch and sorry that the raccoons are getting into your recyclables. We like residents to give cans and bottles a quick rinse before putting them in the blue bin. If you have the room, would it be possible to keep the blue bin inside a garage or another place not easily accessible to raccoons?

  6. mary knight says:

    It would be great if you developed a clip-on bubble-top lid for the bins. Something easily removable on collection day that wouldn’t get in the way, or a roll-over stretchy fabric cover – it would help keep things from blowing out on a windy day, from spills when there are tip-overs; and keep out the critters.

    1. Cat says:

      Thanks for your suggestions. I will pass them on to our collections team!

  7. Peggy Owens says:

    Are the lids that are metal with a rubbery liner on the inside recyclable? Like the kind you get off pickle jars or spaghetti sauce?

    Thank you.

    1. Cat says:

      Hi, thanks for reaching out. Yes, you may recycle the lids of pickle jars and spaghetti sauce. Please unscrew the lids from the containers and add them to your blue recycling bin. Thank you!

  8. Thank you for your tip to not recycle plastic bags or plastic wrap. I had no idea that those were things that can’t be recycled. I have been thinking of having one of those recycling companies come to my house every week. I will make sure to keep these tips in mind for that.

    1. Stuart Foster says:

      I think you’ll find that most supermarkets – certainly the large chains – have a bin near the door where you can deposit your collected plastic bags. It’s amazing how it piles up when you include plastic retail shopping bags, cereal box liners, bread bags, shrink wrap from paper towels and the like, dry cleaning bags, etc. I even peel the plastic sheet labels from drink bottles.

  9. Amanda Pong says:

    I see people putting dirty plastic containers in recycling bins in public places. Does this mean that the whole contents of the bin is considered “contaminated” and discarded? How can we better recycle food containers in places like a mall or food hall or at a conference, where items are being used once and discarded?

    1. Cat says:

      Hi, there. Contamination depends on the type of plastic container that is placed in the recycling bin. Malls and food halls should have clearly marked containers for recyclables–please let us know if you are having issues at a particular location.

      1. mary louise knight says:

        Cat, the clear plastic clamshells with greasy food, like chicken wings, or salad dressing, or congealed melted cheese, can get pretty dirty. Are we supposed to wash these out before putting in our home recycle bins? I have these regularly so it would be hepful to know. I also get senior meals delivered to our household of seniors; they are black plastic trays (like tv dinners) and the empties will have gravy and vegetable residues, as well as a film cover. How thoroughly should they be washed? Also, we’ve been saving these black plastic trays in case someone can use them. I have tall stacks of these – can they be recirculated, or just go into recycling?

  10. Margaret Schmidt says:

    I prefer putting out a cardboard box of paper recycling. Seems easier and more practical for the guys to just throw the whole thing in the truck and it’s also quicker than maneuvering the large wheeled bins. But what should I do on a rainy day with this sort of non-covered paper recycling? Is it ok for all the paper to get wet?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, it’s ok for the paper to get wet, but we prefer paper as clean and dry as possible. Thanks for asking!

  11. Susan says:

    Will the county consider providing the tall slim 23 gal bin?. There is limited room in the townhouse garage and getting the bin between wall and auto in driveway to take to the street.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi Susan, thanks for getting in touch. We are always looking to improve our services–I have sent your suggestion to my manager. Please let us know if you need anything else.

  12. Harry Appelman says:

    I need to dispose of some packing materials that look to be made of compressed paper of some kind – a bit like egg carton material. They came in a box with a product, molded to immobilize the product.
    Are these recyclable?
    I can attach a picture (if you tell me how!)

    Thanks!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi Harry, thanks for your question. Yes, the material you’re describing is recyclable in our recycling program. You may place the packing material in your paper recycling cart. Please let us know if you need anything else.

  13. Harry Appelman says:

    Thanks!

  14. Michelle says:

    Is it possible to recycle milk, orange juice, almond milk, half and half cartons here?
    I just moved to Mont. Cty and have read through all the recycling information, but I do not see these (wax?)coated paperboard cartons listed anywhere. Thank you!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for reaching out and welcome to the County! Yes, you may add the wax-coated paper cartons to your paper recycling cart. For more information on paper and cardboard recycling, visit: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=paper&material_key=24

      Follow us on social for the latest news and information: bit.ly/FollowDEP

  15. Maggie Hayes-Parks says:

    Are you able to accept used refrigerator water filter cartridges? They are made of #5 plastic per the manufacturer but they contain the filter substrate… I’ve been searching for a program to recycle them but not having much luck.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, this is a good question. Due to the composition of the filter, we are not able to accept the filter in our recycling program. Please ley us know if you have further questions.

    2. Suz Podrasky says:

      check out Terracycle!

  16. Claudia says:

    We are going through our file cabinets and coming up with a lot of paper. Is there a pound limit in the tall blue paper recycle containers? Is there a mechanical lift on the recycle trucks?
    Thanks!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hello, we do not have a specific weight limit for paper items in the wheeled carts. Our trucks do not have a lift–our crews empty the containers manually.

      1. mary knight says:

        Hi Cat, We have a yellow bin so the crew takes the bins to the curbside, then the next crews empty them. It takes a long time to fill up the tall cardboard/paper wheeled container, yet the first crew always takes it to the curb, even if there are just a few items. I try to hide it towards the back, but they are so efficient that doesn’t stop them. It is a waste of the workers effort to keep dragging it to the curb and enptying just a few items. Plus, I have to re-stow it so it is not out there all week. I’m just going to have to do better at hiding it when it’s not full.

  17. Pat Williams says:

    I have packing material that came with a box of food (like Hello Fresh) that says it is made from recycled water bottles and has the recycle number 1 label. We put it in the small blue recycle bin with the plastic bottles, but it often gets left behind by the county pickup service. Where am I supposed to recycle it?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for letting us know. Once the water bottles are converted into packing materials, those materials cannot be recycled in our recycling program. You may dispose of the packing materials in your regular household trash.

  18. Steffany Sandoval says:

    Hey, we live on a hill with a very long driveway. Since our recycling bins don’t come with wheels, is it possible to use the wheeled cart instead? We are a very large family so we have about 4 heavy filled bins weekly with plastic, jars, cans.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hello, you may use a container of your choice — with the exception of the County-provided wheeled paper recycling cart — for commingled recyclables. Kindly place a recycling label on your container: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/depwebstore/itemdetail.aspx?item_id=301&subcatalog=31

  19. mary louise knight says:

    Maybe the waste management department has some sort of conveyance with wheels for our recycle bins. Surely this is a common problem. They should have something, or DIY instructions to build something, rig something up.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hello, you may use a container of your choice — with the exception of the County-provided wheeled paper recycling cart — for commingled recyclables. Kindly place a recycling label on your container: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/depwebstore/itemdetail.aspx?item_id=301&subcatalog=31

  20. Peter S. says:

    Can I recycle the lined plastic in which Imodium and gas-x come? The gas-x is just plastic and foil while the Imodium is plastic and some type of foil lined paper.

    Gas-x: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wwcZXPEDrCys-26DEaUcJSzdNLvfavo5/view?usp=sharing
    Imodium: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jiLKdFz2X_nCtuiq4Wt01p1X00kFCEmt/view?usp=sharing

    What I have been doing is separating the components as much as I can with scissors to recycle separately, but I spend at least an hour each week doing so. Can I just put either or both in the blue bin as they are?

  21. Ed says:

    Can you stuff small bits of plastic like tags or pen caps down inside a larger plastic container so they won’t get lost in sorting?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, good question. Kindly place all accepted recyclable loosely in your bin. https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=plastics&material_key=64

  22. Aaron says:

    It’s great to have this forum for MoCo residents to be able to ask questions, provide comments, and share ideas. Thanks!
    1) What about plastic #5? There are so many products made from this. Does MoCo accept it?
    2) And what about rigid and malleable aluminum can/bottle lids?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, yes, we accept #5 plastics in our commingled recycling containers. Kindly give the materials a quick rinse before adding them to the containers. Please place your aluminium cans and bottle lids in the commingled recycling container, also.

  23. Jaime says:

    When we get takeout we get hot food that discolors the plastic containers as well as tin foil containers with plastic lids. Are all of these suitable for the blue bin and how thorough should we clean these containers to ensure they’re not considered contaminated? Sometimes we place them in the dishwasher.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, yes. All of these items are suitable for the blue bin. Please check the bottom of the plastic food container. If you see #6, please add to your household trash as we do not have a recycling opportunity for that number plastic. As for cleanliness, kindly give the containers a quick rinse–no need to run them through the dishwasher.

  24. Kim says:

    Is it okay to use your own plastic container to put recycling at the curb or does it have to be the blue recycling container from Montgomery County?

  25. Ling says:

    I have some dead house plants 🙁 Can these be recycled at the trash center?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for reaching out. We do not have a recycling opportunity for the dead houseplants. You may add them to your regular household trash.

  26. Peter Gold says:

    How do you recycle:
    1) an oatmeal canister that is a cardboard cylinder with what seems to be an aluminum bottom
    2) a jiffy-sak mailing envelope that is paper on the outside but has plastic bubbles on the inside for cushioning
    3) the pump from a liquid soap pump bottle that is plastic but usually has a metal spring inside.

    Thank you.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Good questions!

      1) an oatmeal canister that is a cardboard cylinder with what seems to be an aluminum bottom
      – please add this to your paper/cardboard recycling bin
      2) a jiffy-sak mailing envelope that is paper on the outside but has plastic bubbles on the inside for cushioning
      – we do not have a recycling opportunity for the mailer–kindly add to your household trash
      3) the pump from a liquid soap pump bottle that is plastic but usually has a metal spring inside.
      – we do not have a recycling opportunity for the pump–kindly add to your household trash

      1. Peter Gold says:

        Thank you so much for your swift and thorough reply!
        It would be great if, as you receive these kinds of questions, the website were updated to include this kind of information, as I did search to see if I could find on the website how to recycle these specific items.

        Thanks again!

  27. Nirma says:

    Hello!

    Wanted to know if MC Recycling can process Tetra Pak? I’ve been placing it in the glass/aluminum bin but I don’t know if they are accepted.

    Thanks!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Apologies for the delay. Kindly place Tetra Pak containers in your mixed paper recycling cart. https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=paper&material_key=24

  28. Denise says:

    A package we received had packing peanuts in it with a notice saying they can be recycled. Looking online I can see there are some biodegradable “peanuts” made of starch, not plastic. Can these be recycled in our “blue bin?”

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, good question. We do not have a recycling opportunity for packing peanuts regardless of their compostition. You may add them to your regular household trash.

  29. Peter Gold says:

    Is there a recycling opportunity for a “Sealed Air” foam packaging product or does this simply go into the regular household trash?

    Thank you.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, great question. We do not have a recycling opportunity for the foam packaging product. You may add it to your regular household trash.

  30. Mary Fields says:

    Can a plastic bottle be recycled if it has been cut in half or does it need to be put in the trash?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, yes, the plastic bottle can absolutely be recycled. Please make sure you give it a quick rinse before adding it to your recycling container.

  31. Mary Fields says:

    Thank you for the quick response!

  32. John says:

    Can foil lids off yogart containers be recycled?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, yes. Kindly give the lid a quick rinse and add it to your commingled recycling bin.

  33. Peter Gold says:

    I have torn-and-no-longer-useable hanging file folders of the sort that go into a filing cabinet. I have separated the paper and put that into the paper recycling. What to do with the slim/thin metal bars that the paper was wrapped around so that these file could hang? Thanks!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for recycling the paper. We do not have a recycling opportunity for the metal bars of the hanging file folders–you may add them to your regular household trash.

      1. Peter Gold says:

        Thank you.

  34. Maggie Hayes-Parks says:

    I know that envelopes and pasta boxes with windows are okay to recycle. What about bread sleeves that are paper with a plastic window? Can they also go into paper recycling? (Thinking of sleeves for Italian/French or artisan breads from grocery store)

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, great questions. Yes, you may add the entire bread sleeve to your paper recycling cart. Let us if you need anything else!

  35. Kip says:

    Are plastic trays from frozen microwaveable dinners recyclable (usually #5 plastic)? Also, what about the plastic scoops from powdered laundry products? Thanks.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, yes. We will accept the #5 dinner tray and the plastic scoop, provided it is not #6 plastic. Please rinse the dinner tray before adding it to your recycling bin. Let us know if you need anything else.

  36. Peter Gold says:

    Wondering about, for example, a bottle of cooking oil. The bottle may be plastic or glass, so that’s easy but what about the cap? And then what if it has a plastic “pourer” (spout) type of insert in the mouth? Should that be separated? Put in recycling? Trash? How to handle? Thank you. And thank you for your responses to these questions, which allow us to recycle right!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      I will answer your questions in order:

      1. plastic caps – please add to recycling bin
      2. plastic pourer/spout – leave the insert intact

      Plastics Recycling: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=plastics&material_key=64

  37. PERRY D HUGHES says:

    Why do you make us separate into two bins when I see that the material is tipped into the back at the same place in the collection lorry. You do not separate upon recite.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for getting in touch. Our recycling trucks have a divider. One side is for commingled recyclables and the other is for mixed paper and cardboard. Please let us know if you need anything else.

  38. Nicholas M. says:

    Good morning! We just had a bunch of recycling rejected by the truck crew. Stuck to the recycling bin was a notice with a handwritten note at the bottom that read: “NO MIXING.” We checked the website and can’t find anything about what this means. Can you clarify so we don’t get our growing pile of recycling rejected again? Thanks!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, good question! Here’s some additional information: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sws/recycling/blue-bin-items.html

      Please let us know if you need anything else.

  39. Andy says:

    Grocery stores now sell blue recyclable plastic bags specifically for recycling glass and plastic. These were accepted for the first two months I used them but have now been rejected twice. is there any policy on using these bags to keep our in-home recycling container clean?

    Second, the orange tag on rejected recycling says if we have questions call 311, but that yields a notice the number is not in service.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi Andy, we cannot accept plastic bags, film, or other “tanglers” in our recycling program because those materials clog up the recycling processing machinery. Kindly place your recyclables loosely in your bin. You may call 311 or 240-777-0311 (out of county).

      Plastic Bags: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=plastic-bags&material_key=63

      What goes in your Blue Bin: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sws/recycling/blue-bin-items.html

      Let us know if you need anything else.

  40. Joe says:

    Now that Keurig K-Cups are made of #5 plastic, are they recyclable if you remove the paper filter and foil top?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, to err on the side of caution, please place all in your regular household trash. Let us know if you need anything else.

  41. David Bayles says:

    Should I be removing the shrink-wrap (not print-on) labels that are on soda bottles or any other type of such-labeled recyclable containers before placing them in the recycling containers? This was the subject of a national tv network news story which indicated this practice should be happening. Obviously this creates a lot of extra work for consumers or recycling plant staff to ensure the items enter and proceed through the recycling stream properly. I’ve seen no information from Montgomery County recently that provides guidance either way. I do know we are supposed to remove the screw cap from the bottles and give them a quick rinse.

    Is there a requirement or a preference for the way consumers deal with these labeled products when they place them in containers at this point in the stream?

    Thanx!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for your question. You do not need to remove the labels off of soda bottles before adding the bottles to your recycling bin. Let us know if you need anything else.

  42. Peter Gold says:

    Is there a recycling opportunity for (washed off) aluminum foil used in cooking? Can it go together with cans and bottles in our recycling bin? Thank you.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, yes. Clean and dry aluminium foil may be added to your recycling bin. Let us know if you need anything else!

      1. Peter Gold says:

        Thank you.

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