Let’s keep our recyclables clean!

Keep recyclables clean!
December 26, 2018

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.

155 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??

    1. Harry Appelman says:

      Trying to start a new question but not clear how to do it.

      Question: I’ve heard that black plastic bottles are not recyclable… is this correct? If so, what about other black plastic containers?


      1. Cat Lee says:

        Hi, thanks for reaching out. Bottles and containers marked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 may be recycled in our recycling program.

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

        1. Andrew Vermilye says:

          What about milk and juice cartons that are cardboard but have plastic tops and our spouts?

          1. mary knight says:

            I need to know this too.

          2. Cat Lee says:

            Hi, milk and juice cartons can be placed in the mixed paper / cardboard recycling cart with the spout intact. Please add the plastic caps to the recycling bin. More info: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=paper&material_key=24

  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?

    1. Brenda Graninger says:

      I’m about to put an “oops tag” on the recycling program itself. As part of our Mc taxes recycling is supposed to be picking up yard trimmings every week. They are not! When we call they give us a bunch of excuses. They said to leave it out and it will be picked up the next day. Again they have not done so. And again this is not the first time.

  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.

    2. Mary Beth says:

      Supermarkets in Montgomery County that take plastic bags include:
      1. Wegmans
      2. Whole Foods Market
      3. Harris Teeter

      I’m sure that there are more, but those are the ones I know about. Also, if you’re ever in Arlington, VA, the Clarendon Whole Foods Market has an extra large bin for plastic-bag recycling – especially handy for me, since, despite the fact that I NEVER use single-use plastic shopping/produce bags and I try to avoid plastic bags in general as much as possible, I end up with an astonishing amount of plastic bags (and similar recyclable packaging) every month.

      1. Cat Lee says:

        Thanks for the information! Remember to check with your local store to see if they accept plastic bags and film for recycling as services can change.

        1. Bruce Goldensohn says:

          Add Giant to the list of supermarkets that take plastic bags for recycling – some of it even gets made into park benches!

  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?

        1. Sreya Sinha says:

          I also had the plastic clamshell question. A county recycling educator informed us that those kinds of containers are sometimes #6 plastic, which is polystyrene, and NOT recyclable in our curbside recycling. They are plain trash. However, if they are #1 or #2 plastic they are recyclable and should be rinsed out and placed in the recycle bin. Check the bottom and sometimes sides of the container for the little recycling symbol with the number inside. In my experience the black trays are usually #5 and are recyclable once they are rinsed out.

          This page is the most helpful plastics recycling page I have found on the website:

  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!)


    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:


  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?

    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:


    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.


    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

      1. The Good Doctor says:

        I’m glad to see the County is able to recycle those multi-layered Tetra Paks. We’ve been flattening them to conserve space in our blue bin, but I read that they need to remain inflated to provide a 3-D image for the sorting machines to separate. Is that true for Montgomery County’s program?

        Similarly, can we continue to crush our plastic bottles and cans to conserve space, or do we need to leave them inflated for the sorters?

        1. Cat Lee says:

          Hi, thanks for reaching out. We do not have optical scanners at our fiber processing facility, so feel free to flatten the Tetra Paks. You may also crush the bottles and cans. Let us know if you need anything else!

  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.

      2. Sarah says:

        Are those metal bars something we could collect and drop off at the transfer station for scrap metal recycling?

        1. Cat Lee says:

          Yes, that’s right. Thanks for the mention.

  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.

      1. Anne Middleton says:

        What? I’m really hoping these can be recycled — it’s the one reason why I’m now using a Keurig and I clean the #5 cups before recycling. K-cups are a huge polluter globally. Please update your info to include this item. And yes, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to remove the lid and coffee grounds. Thanks

  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?


    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.

  43. Jody says:

    I understand old CDs and DVDs are recyclable, if I bring them to the Transfer Station. What about the plastic cases that the CDs come in? Can I throw those in my blue bin at home? And what about the plastic cases that DVDs or installation CDs (like Word, Turbo Tax etc.) come in?

    Also, are old drinking glasses (plastic or glass) recyclable? (They are too crummy looking to give away.)


    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for getting in touch. You may add the cases for CDs and DVDs to your regular household trash. You may also add glass and plastic drinking cups to your regular household trash. Let us know if you need anything else.

      1. Jody says:

        So just to clarify–none of the things I mentioned go in the recycle bins?

        1. Cat Lee says:

          You are correct.

      2. Jody says:

        And one more question about glass–we have so many vases that have come from florists–pretty basic–and the local yard sale/thrift shops seem to have way too many. Can they be recycled, in the blue bin, or should they go in trash? Thank you.

        1. Cat Lee says:

          Glass vases, drinking glasses, mirrors, etc. should be added to your regular household trash. https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=glass&material_key=59

  44. Peter Gold says:

    Is there a way to recycle plastic bubble wrapping of, for example, a toothbrush? or does that just go into regular household trash?

    Thank you, as always!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, bubble wrapping goes in the trash.

  45. Peter Gold says:

    I have a small kitchen utility knife, the metal blade of which broke off of the plastic handle.
    Can the metal blade be put into my blue bin for recycling? If not, regular household trash?
    Can you recommend a way to dispose of it so that no one gets cut?
    Thank you!

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Kindly sandwich the knife blade between two pieces of cardboard and wrap or tape the cardboard together before placing it in your trash. Thank you!

  46. Joe says:

    questions about microwavable dinner plastic trays and take out coffee cups/lids: The trays for many popular dinners like lean cuisine/healthy choice are either #1 or #5 plastics… Are these recyclable in the county program? I have been putting them in the blue bin for years. Also, are starbucks or dunkin’ or other paper coffee cups recyclable. Your list seems to indicate that they are. And the lids are now made of #5 plastic… so should that be placed in recycling as well? Thanks!

  47. Peter Collins says:

    Could you just give us a single clear list of what can be and what should not be placed in recycle, as has been done in the past? The list may be long, but that’s OK. Something we can print out and keep for reference?

    1. Lori W. says:

      +1 to Peter’s comment on posting a more specific, detailed list on the website of what can/can’t be recycled. The questions here are quite specific and Cat’s prompt, thorough answers have revealed nuances that weren’t clear based on the simple list online.

      I know you want to communicate clearly so there’s more compliance, but knowing the details would help improve the quality of what’s collected and save $.

      1. Cat Lee says:

        Here is a downloadable recyclable materials flyer that you can use for handy reference. Let us know if you need anything else!


    2. Cat Lee says:

      Of course! We have downloadable materials online that you can use for handy reference.


  48. Jody says:

    How clean do plastic mayonnaise and peanut butter jars need to be? If I need to use soap and hot water to clean them, am I wasting more water and electricity that the value of recycling these jars?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi Jody thanks for getting in touch. A quick rinse is all that is needed for mayonnaise and peanut butter jars — no need to wash with soap and water. Let us know if you need anything else!

      1. Jody says:

        Even if there is still peanut butter coating the jar?

        1. Cat Lee says:


          1. Jody says:


  49. Joe Piraneo says:

    Hi. I asked a while back about microwaveable plastic trays like the ones you get in lean cuisine etc. they are #5 and #1 trays. But I read in some other programs that they are not easy to recycle because they don’t melt well. Does Montgomery County take these? It appears so because of the plastic number.

    1. Joe Piraneo says:

      Also are #5 coffee cup lids and paper cups from places like Starbucks…recyclable.

      1. Cat Lee says:

        Yes, #5 coffee lids are accepted in our recycling program. You may recycle paper coffee cups with mixed paper and cardboard.

        Mixed Paper and Cardboard: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=paper&material_key=24

    2. Cat Lee says:

      Hi Joe, good question. Yes, we accept #1 and #5 plastic trays in our recycling program. Let us know if you need anything else!

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

  50. Peter Janak says:

    Recycling currently is wasteful. We are not running out of land. Anywhere. Recycling is too expe sive compared the value of the products being recycled. Cinservation, like getting rid of plastic straws doesn’t even rub the surface.

  51. Kim says:

    I know Montgomery county accepts all plastic types except 6, but do they actually recycle all types? I saw a CNN article that said most places only actually recycle 1 and 2.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hello, the County accepts plastics 1,2,3,4,5 and 7 for our recycling program. Let us know if you need anything else!

      1. Drew says:

        LOL. This answer is the winner of the “Tell me you don’t really recycle plastics without telling me you don’t really recycle plastics” award.

  52. Peter Gold says:

    That pdf flyer you posted a little while back is helpful. Based on that, I wanted to be sure: Is it safe to assume that a raisin container (waxy paper) can be put into paper recycling along with juice boxes, tetra pak, etc.? The cover is plastic so I put that in with my plastic bottles, cans, etc. Thanks.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Yes, you may place the cardboard type raising container with your cardboard and mixed paper recycling. If the cover plastic is film, please add it to your regular household trash and film plastics cannot be processed in our recycling program.

  53. Harry Appelman says:

    Hi – trying to recycle 2 lead-acid batteries (from Verizon FiOS unit). I assume these must be taken to the transfer station – or are there any other locations in the county?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for getting in touch. You may take the batteries to the household hazardous waste drop off at the Shady Grove Transfer Station or drop them off at a participating electronics retailer convenient to you. If you drop off at a retailer, call ahead to confirm hours and details of their battery acceptance program. Let us know if you need anything else!

  54. Svb says:

    Hello, online they have recycling bags available specifically for holding your recyclables. It is difficult to carry all the bottles and cans I am recycling to my apartments recycling bin, can I use these bags?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, good question. Plastic bags are not accepted in our recycling program as they contaminate our recycling stream – the “tanglers” get caught in our recycling sorting machinery. As for carrying the recyclables to the recycling bin, do you have a neighbor or property manager who may be able to assist? Please let us know if you need anything else.

    2. Sreya Sinha says:

      We have the same issue in our apartment, and if recyclables are dumped in the recycling bin in bags, they are not recycled. We use an empty cardboard box and a small, open waste bin (the kind you might have under an office desk) to collect and carry our recyclables. Hope this helps!

  55. Peter Gold says:

    How to recycle the cover to an oatmeal canister? The canister itself is cardboard so that’s easy. Leftover dust in the compost and then recycle as cardboard. But the cover is a plastic ring and a cardboard center. Separate? Recycle as one item? Paper or plastic? For the record, the plastic ring of the cover does not seem to have a recycling symbol on it. Thank you.

  56. Amanda Ayala says:

    Please stop targetting Latino communities and dumping trash in our neighborhood! Montgomery County’s recycling program is a joke and extremely outdated. There should be comingling of recyclables instead of the garbage program you have of separating items. And then rejecting recyclables because they are not separated by your insane rules! Do you expect people to recycle with so many rules? This county sucks, starting with this department! The last time I called to complain, and could not get a hold of any representative. Instead of educating, you are humiliating people for not being able to attain your impossible recycling standards. Stop dumping recyclables back into our streets. This is not helping people recycle and will actually deter them from recycling. I guess this department is being run by a pack of privilege racist morons!

    1. Sreya Sinha says:

      Hey Amanda, just some food for thought. The reason why China stopped accepting the US recyclables is because most of it was very contaminated, because most recycling programs in the US are commingled to some extent. Recyclables only have value if they can be sold to be turned into something else. It costs money and time for recycling companies to separate things, so by having the community pre-sort recyclables there is a FAR greater chance that valuable material will have a chance at being recycled. From what I have understood, if the materials are too mixed up, its not worth the effort at the recycling center to sort it, so it just gets trashed. To avoid the material getting trashed they are not picking up contaminated bins and giving households a chance to remedy that.

      Its an unfortunate catch-22- commingled recycling will get more people to “recycle” more, but then the materials are more likely to be contaminated and not have as much value. Having sorted recycling increases the value and recyclability of the material, but less people want to bother so fewer people bother recycling properly. :/

      1. Amanda Ayala says:

        Hi thank you for a different perspective. I still do not think that Montgomery County should drop trash in my street (mostly Latino and POC neighborhood) and label items trash in Spanish. And posting their rules. That is demoralizing, humiliating and it doesn’t contribute or help people want to recycle. I doubt they do this in let’s say Potomac. I doubt the recycling issues are only being experienced by the Latino community or other people of color. Treat people with dignity and respect. And educate people. Truly show them and give them the resources to recycle. Montgomery gives a bin for recycling with no instructions on the bin. Another thing, I pay for recycling. My recycling is not free and then Montgomery county profits from selling the recyclables if I understand what you said correctly. When I separate my recyclables I follow the rules. But I did not appreciate having trashed dropped in front of my house as a means to demonstrate that the recycling is not being done correctly. It’s just sad. I wish Moco did a better job at educating and not humiliating.

  57. Sreya Sinha says:

    Oof, definitely hear you there! All I can say is maybe they were trying to be helpful in posting the signage in Spanish. I don’t know where you live, but my apartment building at one point reached out (after multiple complaints from residents about seeing contaminated recycling) to an educator from the Department of Environmental Protection in Montgomery County and they came and gave a very informative seminar in our building that was really helpful. It definitely changed how I deal with the waste generated from my household.

    Maybe reach out and see if they could do something like that for your neighborhood?

  58. Jody Bosnick says:

    Can empty candle jars be recycled? (Same kind of jars that are used for storing grains and beans in pantry) How about the lids, which are part plastic?

  59. I just read your article and it really resonated with me. I was so excited to find out that you’re also passionate about protecting the environment! My friend and I were talking about how we should be recycling more often but we never remember to do it at home. At work, they have a blue bin for recycling and every other day someone will come by and collect all of our recyclables. It’s such an easy way to make sure you’re doing your part in trying not to contribute as much waste into the planet.

  60. Jody says:

    A few years ago Montgomery Recycling trucks visited the school where I was teaching, and students/staff could take home blue “waste basket” for recyclables. I fits easily in my kitchen/pantry, and makes recycling cardboard boxes (cereal, crackers etc.), junk mail, toilet paper rolls, etc. really easy. Then we just dump it in our outside container for recycling day. It could also be used for the bottles/cans, but we walk those outside daily. Can Montgomery County make those containers available to residents who request them? As Bill notes above, it is a good reminder and encourages recycling.

  61. Sinaly Roy says:

    How do you recycle a bunch of old house keys, without having them fall through the holes in the recycling bin

  62. Thanks for the post. I think it’s important to keep recyclables clean and sorted as best we can. One easy way of doing that is by rinsing all bottles, jars, cans and containers before putting them in the blue bin.

  63. Peter Gold says:

    Can a toothpaste tube that touts itself as “now made of recyclable materials” that is made of HDPE2 plastic be included in the blue bin of cans and plastic bottles, etc.? Thank you.

  64. Claire E Miller says:

    Is it OK to fill one blue bin with paper products and another with bottles, cans, etc.? We live on an orphan road about 3 blocks from a drop-off spot for recyclables. We pay for recycling, but the trucks don’t come down our road. We take reusable bags for grocery shopping, so we don’t get paper bags and we try not to do a lot of mail ordering, so we don’t have a lot of spare boxes. I would like to drop off the recycled paper every week rather than drive to the transfer station, but a wheeled cart isn’t practical to haul up our pot-holed gravel road to the drop-off place–that’s why I’d like to use a blue bin exclusively for paper.

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi, thanks for asking. You may use an alternate bin for mixed paper products but the bin must be labeled with a paper recycling sticker. You can order the sticker online. https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/depwebstore/itemdetail.aspx?item_id=302&subcatalog=31

  65. claire miller says:

    Are you saying you don’t want me to use a blue recycle bin for paper? Is it OK to use it if I put one of those stickers on? If I put a sticker on a different bin that I buy for the purpose, will they throw it away even if it has a sticker on it?

    1. Cat Lee says:

      If you do not already have a separate container, you may use a blue bin. Kindly label your container.

  66. Carol Knight says:

    Regarding cardboard food and juice cartons. Even after reviewing questions asked over the last two years, I still have a question. Milk cartons are the same material inside and out. Others have a liner of some sort. I am specifically want to know if those with a foil appearing liner are recyclable with the other paper products. Examples: some large orange juice containers; containers of broth for cooking. I can see the lining since I always cut it open, rinse, and set aside to dry before adding to the big blue paper bin. Thx

    1. Cat Lee says:

      Hi! Yes, you may add the shelf-stable product containers (Tetra Paks) to your paper recycling cart. More info: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/DepHowDoI/material.aspx?tag=paper&material_key=24

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