Yes! Right there at the top of the bin is a... big plastic trash bag!
Even if you collect recyclable items in plastic bags, please put only loose cans, bottles, jars and containers into your blue bin. Then, reuse the bags, recycle them, or if they are dirty, put them into the trash.
Our Recycling Center sorting process works most efficiently when we receive your loose recyclables. When items are delivered in plastic bags, workers must open and remove the bags by hand.
Can we recycle salted nut canisters (cylindrical paper with metal bottom and metal top rim)?
Thanks for your question, D. Another resident asked us a very similar question a short while later. And, it's one we faced in my own household last month with a coffee can of similar construction -- we stood there in the kitchen, debating the pros and cons of the various disposal and recycling options... So, the topic is ripe for a blog entry!
Our recycling program cannot accept containers made of more than one type of material; so the nut (and coffee and similar) canisters would be a "no" since the metal rim and foil paper would be a contaminant of the mixed paper recycling process.
This post generated several reader responses – thanks!
You asked whether we still accept milk and juice cartons - which may have plastic spouts and lids - or juice and drink boxes. Yes, we do! Please continue to add these to your paper recycling.
The beverage cartons and boxes are recycled using a process called hydropulping. This process is able to separate plastics, such as the plastic spout or lid, from the coated paper fibers. On the other hand, the paper-type canisters can have layers of wrapping and metal which is difficult for paper recyclers to remove. While these containers may look similar, the processes for handling them do vary. Therefore, the canisters are not recyclable in our program.
Some of you suggested creative ways to make the most of your canisters:
“I often have containers that have metal tops and bottoms and a cardboard body. I tend to take pliers to them and rip off the top and bottom and put them in our "metal" bin which we occasionally take to the Transfer Station metal area.” – submitted by M.
“We use these nut containers to pour grease into, then let it harden or refrigerate it and put it into the trash. Keep grease from going down your drain.” – submitted by B.
A friend brought me this warehouse-store-sized plastic tub, made from plastic resin #1. She knew it wasn’t recyclable in our Montgomery County program, but hoped that maybe I’d have a (re)use for it.
I tried, but a few weeks later, it was still gracing the same spot in my office, untouched. Before I tossed it out, though, I had one more thing to do: photograph it for our plastics do’s and don’t gallery.
What kinds of wrapping paper are recyclable? I specifically wonder about the shiny, metallic paper that my wife likes.
Thanks for your timely question, M.! Metallic and foil papers do create a fine-looking gift presentation! But, as much as I hate to introduce any domestic discontent, please tell your wife (gently!) that we cannot accept foil- or plastic-coated papers for recycling. We accept all other types of gift wrap paper (minus the bows and ribbons!).
In a related question, B. asked:
Can you tell me what can be done with tissue paper?
A note about the photo: that roll of gift wrap is labeled "polywrap". It looks like foil paper but... it's actually a thin plastic film. If you have or receive any of this type of wrap, please dispose of it as trash once you are finished using (and reusing) it; we cannot accept plastic films in our recycling program.
My camera and I recently spent a morning visiting our Recycling Center's Operations Manager. I wanted to find out more about those "thanks, but no" items -- things which residents send to the Recycling Center, but which we cannot accept.
In preparation for my visit, Recycling Center staff had pulled aside a pile of items for me to see. Sporting my borrowed hard hat, I strode out onto the tipping floor with the manager. This is the area in which the recycling trucks which collect material from your blue bins and wheeled paper carts dump, or tip, their contents.
The time passed quickly as we proceeded through our show-and-tell; it was fascinating to hear about the do's and don'ts of Montgomery County's recycling program from the manager's very practical operations perspective. My many questions were answered patiently, and I completely filled my camera's memory card with photos. I look forward to sharing my learnings with you in a series of "Recycling Center Tips" blog entries.
The day of my visit was pleasant and sunny, with few clouds wafting about. It had not rained in several days. Yet, a large puddle covered a section of floor quite a distance from the building entrance. Puzzling... what could possibly have been the source?
When the sorting workers find bottles with water, juice, or soda remaining inside, they pull these bottles aside. When the bottle container is full, it is dumped out on the tipping floor. The front-end loader then runs over the bottles, crushing them, and allowing the liquids to drain out... thus forming the puddle I saw.
The crushed, and now empty, bottles are then put back onto the conveyer belts for sorting.
Tip: please empty beverage bottles before adding them to your blue bin.
I was looking forward to the arrival of the season's first zucchini, so that I could use it in a batch of Chocolate Zucchini Bread. This past weekend, I got that zucchini, whipped out my recipe, and set to work.
In the process, I used the last of my baking cocoa. Typically, I would have stood there in the kitchen, considering whether I had any possible uses for the empty cocoa container, generally decided that I already had more than enough empty plastic containers awaiting reuse, and then gently placed it into the trash.
This time, I cheerfully rinsed the container and lid, and put them into my recycling bin (after taking this photograph for you!) for collection in our expanded plastics recycling program. And, yes, the bread turned out well also.
You stated in your answer that berry containers can't be recycled because they are polystyrene (#6). However, some, including one I planned to recycle, are PETE (#1). Can these #1 clamshell containers be recycled?
Thanks, S., for the opportunity to clarify this topic further. Sorry, we cannot accept the #1 clamshell containers either. So, in summary: no clamshell containers in your blue bins, please.
On Saturday morning, my family and I went blueberry picking. I noticed that one of the fellow berry-pickers near us was carefully depositing his harvest into... a large, clear clamshell container. There were still lots of blueberries ripening on the bushes, with blackberries available, too, and the promise of raspberries to come! So, there is time yet to refill your own berry containers with some tasty summer goodness before retiring them to the trash.
Thank you for the many questions you've been asking us about our newly expanded plastics recycling program! The program details are new to us, too, and we've been learning a great deal about the finer points of plastics recycling do's and don't ourselves.
We will continue to tweak our plastics guidance to you so that it is easy to use and understand. And, we'll be sharing advice on specific plastic items here in our blog. So, on to our first item...
One of the top questions has been "Can I recycle my strawberry / blueberry / raspberry containers?" Sorry, to the extent that you don't have a reuse for these, please put your clear "clamshell" containers from berries into the trash.
Yes, it is a food-grade container. But, it is made from polystyrene, which we cannot accept in this form. How do you know that it's made from this resin? Look for the "6" on the container.
Too bad the recycling center can't accept them. Why not have an additional bin for them? Although stores like Whole Food are terminating them from their stores, unfortunately, those plastic bags are still a significant part of our surrounding.
We are constantly evaluating the range of materials we are able to accept in the recycling drop-off area at our Solid Waste Transfer Station. Just last month, we expanded our electronics recycling program to accept small electronics, in addition to the computers and televisions we were already taking.
At this time, we are unable to dedicate a collection container to plastic bags at the Transfer Station. Instead, we recommend that you take your plastic bags to recycling bins at your local grocery stores. Hopefully, having drop-off options close to home will make it even more convenient than bringing bags to us.
And, we encourage using reusable cloth bags whenever possible, which helps you avoid having plastic bags to recycle.
We find the fact sheets handy for answering many frequently asked questions. If you would like a quantity of any of these fact sheets to distribute to your neighborhood, multi-family tenants, employees, or other group, just let us know!
The bottles and cans are sent to intermediate processors where the materials are cleaned and items such as napkins that may have accompanied the material are removed. This process is similar to removing the paper labels from the containers at these intermediate processing facilities.
So, keep giving us those cans and bottles, even if they have extra items tucked inside! Each can and bottle makes a positive difference towards meeting our County recycling goals.
While a picture tells a thousand words, showing the actual item is even more effective!
Using plastic bags and putting them into recycling containers labeled for commingled materials (aluminum cans and foil products, bi-metal steel/tin cans, glass bottles and jars, and plastic narrow-neck bottles) and mixed paper and cardboard is a common error. (While plastic grocery bags are recyclable, they typically are not acceptable in multi-family or single-family residential recycling programs. However, most local grocery stores in Montgomery County accept plastic shopping bags for recycling, so take them with you the next time you go grocery shopping.)
The program specialists in our multi-family recycling program visit apartments and condominiums daily, checking their recycling programs and efforts, and providing assistance to residents and property managers.
On a recent visit to a property in Bethesda, a program specialist found a plastic bag, emphatically labeled with "No!", to remind residents that these bags should not go into their recycling containers. Kudos to the property managers for displaying our recycling do's and don'ts poster (seen on the left; available in English and Spanish versions), and for supplementing the poster's information with an actual example!
[The holiday reminder emails are] a great service. I just would like to suggest that next December you advise your subscribers on how to dispose of the cardboard/plastic boxes that many toys come wrapped in. This year, for example, I separated the paper and the plastic parts and put them out separately for recycling. Was this correct?
Thank you, TS, for your compliment about our holiday reminder email service, and for your question. Since it's December again, it's time to pull it out of the file in which I've been safely storing it.
Thank you also for correctly preparing the toy packaging in your household for recycling. To you Gentle Readers in similar situations this holiday season (or at any time), please:
Pull out plastic bags, plastic ties, foam packing, desiccant packets, and other non-paper items from the box.
Dispose of these plastic items (except for the bags) in your regular household trash; you can add the bags to the plastic bag collection at your local grocery store.
What about plastic "windows" in toy boxes? You may leave these on the box when you give it to us for recycling.
Put the empty cardboard boxes together with your other paper recyclables, for pickup on your recycling day.
To take waste prevention yet another step further, don't buy any new cloth bags until you have first checked at home. Chances are good that you -- or a friend or relative -- already have a bag (or two or three) that would be a great shopping bag.
So, what are some options for disposing of foam packaging? The best choice is to reuse it as packaging. Consider offering it on your local Freecycle Network group -- someone in your community might have a use for it. Stores providing mailing services are often happy to take your foam peanuts.
Do you have a foam cooler you'd like to rehome? We recently learned that the Manna Food Center in Rockville accepts foam coolers for reuse in its food distribution program.
You've put the plants into your garden. It's time to clean up... can you recycle the plastic flower pots and trays? It's tempting... they've got the recycling arrows on them. But... please don't add them to your recycling bin.
We are able to accept all plastic bottles with necks. What about those pots and trays, then? Gardeners are often happy to take these for use with their own seedlings. Otherwise, please put these items into your household trash.
However, if a plastic bottle has held hazardous contents -- that purple bottle in the photo is labeled "Wasp & Hornet Killer" -- then please put the empty bottle into your household trash as well.
Update, February 15, 2010:Our blog entries are accurate when published. But, our programs do change over time. We now accept flower pots in our plastic recycling program. Please check our plastics recycling webpage for the most current information on this program element.