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What to do with Items that Aren’t Accepted in Your Blue Bin

Two things can happen when an item that shouldn’t be in your blue bin is in there. Incorrectly recycled items may damage recycling equipment. The incorrectly recycled materials must be removed by workers and placed in trash bins before being hauled away to the landfill. This increases operating costs.

The following items are accepted without restriction in the blue bins:

Some recycling facilities may have a different list. You should check with your hauler about the most recent recycling policies. You should always have a current list as they may change. You can often find these on a company’s site, but sometimes you need to call or email and request one.

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What happens to items that you can’t recycle in the curbside container? Are they thrown away? They shouldn’t. What you shouldn’t do with these items is not permitted in most blue bin recycling programs.


Batteries should never be placed in the blue bin unless you are told to do so by your hauler. This is unlikely to be permitted as ruptured batteries can cause fires in recycling trucks or facilities. Tulsa’s Oklahoma recycling center was severely damaged by a fire in early 2023. A li-ion cell was responsible for the fire.

If you can’t recycle them with your hauler or local hardware store, bring the batteries to a battery drop-off box in stores such as Lowes, Home Depot or a local chain of hardware stores. You can also take them to your recycling facility.


The book must not be wet or moldy to be recycled in the blue container. You will need to remove the front and rear covers first. It is annoying when the book could still be in good condition and enjoyed by others.

You can take a few steps.


You cannot throw away chemicals like paint, household cleaners and automotive fluids. Bring them to a facility that recycles environmental waste. It may be necessary to make an appointment, but this is the best way to recycle these materials.


Bring your old clothing to H&M if it is in good condition. You can get store credit for this. This will earn you store credit. Patagonia, The North Face, and other brands also accept clothes for recycling.

The North Face’s recycling program, Closing the Loop, accepts gently used clothing and shoes. You will receive a $10 credit on your next $100 purchase.


Electronics are hazardous waste and should not be thrown away. Only half of all states in the U.S. prohibit their disposal. Small appliances, cables, and old computer components are all included.

Bring three or more used electronics per day to retailers such as Best Buy and Staples for recycling. You can also take electronics to a local recycling center or a townwide e-waste event.

There are other options if you need a different schedule or location. Some manufacturers have take-back programs that will cover the shipping costs for their old computers and TVs. They can return their old computers, TVs, printers, etc.

Look into the $199.99 stand-alone haul-away program at Best Buy. They will come to your house and haul away up to two large appliances and as many smaller ones as you want. This is a great way to dispose of old instruments like a dryer and refrigerators, as well as computers, printers, tablets, DVD players, headphones, remote cables, fans, vacuums, cellphones, and e-readers.

You can also order an electronic recycling box through ERI. The fee you pay for the box covers shipping and recycling your electronics. ERI, a certified ITAD electronic recycler, will ensure that your electronics are recycled safely and securely. This protects sensitive data and the environment.

Food Scraps

Vermont was the first state to mandate food recycling/composting, and California soon followed. Other cities are also requiring the mandatory recycling of food waste. Your hauler may offer a program that allows you to compost your food waste instead of dumping it in a landfill.

There are simple ways to compost food waste at home, which only takes up a little space. The barrel composter measures just a few feet wide, a few feet high, and a few feet wide. The barrel composter will fit easily on a patio or deck. Place your eggshells, coffee grounds/tea leaves, and vegetable scraps in the container. Rotate the barrel each day.

You can also buy small worm composters to feed your vegetable scraps. Newspaper or cardboard shredder is a good bedding material for worms. After they have started to break things down, the castings from their worms can be used as nutrients in your small garden.

Plastic Film

Recycle plastic film products such as bubble wraps, plastic bags for groceries and produce, plastic food bags, air pillows, padded mailing envelopes, cereal bags, etc. Save the clear plastic bags and shrink wrap that comes with the furniture or mattresses you buy.

You will likely find a green recycling bin near the redemption area for bottles or the lobby of your supermarket. This bin is for recycling plastic films. Find your nearest recycling bin at


Styrofoam can be recycled in limited circumstances. Check with your local UPS Store and retailers who ship items before you toss them. Many businesses will accept mailing supplies such as air pillows, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam nuts to reduce costs. Many cities also have bins that accept clean Styrofoam.

Research is a Habit: Get into the Habit

It is best to check the labels of any items you are unsure of if they should be placed in your recycling bin, trash, or separate box. It is a time-consuming process, but it prevents items containing heavy metals or plastics from leaking into groundwater or soil.

Recycle Nation helps make it easier. Enter your ZIP code and the item you are unsure where to send it, and instantly get results with contact information and directions for the location that will accept the item. ‘s Recycle Search Tool will help you recycle items correctly. You can also protect the environment by taking the time to search for information.

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Jane S. King

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