You’ve finally trained yourself not to pitch those soda cans in the regular old trash can—but there’s a lot more to recycling than that. In fact, recycling is as much about what you keep out of the bin as what you put in it.
Contaminating recycling streams with the wrong materials slows down the process, since employees have to stop and remove unwanted items. That in turn drives up city costs for recycling, and guess who pays those costs? That’s right: you do.
So, it pays to make sure you’re recycling properly. Luckily, Austin has many different channels for disposing of various materials, even if they don’t go in the blue bin. Here’s what you can’t put in your curbside recycling cart—and where you should take it instead.
Austin recycling centers take tons of hard plastics, but the soft stuff should stay out of the bin. These softer plastics jam the machinery and slow the recycling process. Take special care to put plastic wrap, film and bags in the proper place.
Plastic bags can be reused or taken to your nearest grocery store. Most accept bags for recycling, and many take plastic film and plastic wrap as well. Check out the Plastic Film Recycling drop-off location directory to find a store that will take that soft plastic off your hands. And be sure to bring you reusable bags to the store when you shop to save time—and some space in your cabinets!
Styrofoam is basically an environmental scourge, since it takes at least 500 years to biodegrade and is more difficult to recycle. Despite that fact, many restaurants and manufacturers still use styrofoam for packaging and to-go containers.
Although you can’t place styrofoam or plastic foam in your curbside bin, some types are recyclable. Many mail centers accept foam and plastic packing materials for reuse. You can use the Earth 911 dropoff locator to find places that will take them, or just reuse them yourself next time you mail a package!
Pizza Boxes and Other Greasy Food Containers
Nothing beats the delicious convenience of pizza delivery. However, the boxes they come in don’t belong in your blue bin. Although other types of corrugated cardboard are accepted by Austin recycling centers, pizza boxes are usually saturated with grease, making them no good for paper recycling.
In Austin, though, you don’t have to trash your pizza boxes. Instead, the City of Austin recommends putting them in your green curbside compost bin, if available in your area, or in a household compost pile.
The recycling bin is no place for branches, boards, old furniture and other wood products. Usable boards and furniture can go to the Austin Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a nonprofit retail store that sells used building materials and home goods.
Fabric is another recycling bin no-no in Austin. However, old clothes, shoes, bedding and accessories can find new life in one of the many donation centers around the city.
If donating clothing isn’t an option, these items can be put out for curbside pickup through Austin Resource Recovery’s partnership with Simple Recycling. Place used clothing, accessories and household goods in a green Simple Recycling bag and put them next to your blue bin on the curb, and Simple Recycling will pick them up right from your house!
Used Electronics and Appliances
Appliances and electronics contain loads of usable plastic and various metals—some of them rare or precious. They can be recycled, but they shouldn’t go in your Austin recycling bin.
Instead, bring these items to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center or take them to our facility here at Gardner Metals and get paid for your effort!