Special Message from the CCSWA: When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

“Please, please throw it out!” is not a message one typically hears around Earth Day, but the truth is “too-zealous recyclers have contaminated the recyclables with trash.”

Chester County residents are great recyclers, but they shouldn’t be tempted to be too passionate about putting items in the bin that do not belong, which ends up “trashing” the recyclables.  Properly prepared and collected recyclables are valued commodities sold on a global market. When too many non-recyclables (trash) are mixed in with the recyclables it all becomes trash, because it is too costly to separate and requires disposal at a landfill.  Meanwhile, too much money has been spent on collection, transportation and processing material that wasn’t worth collecting in the first place.

Scrap metal, hangers, pieces of rope or hose, pieces of wood, yard waste and children’s toys are just a few of the items that “contaminate” the recyclables. Scrap metal may be taken to a scrap dealer, yard waste should be composted, and reusable children’s toys may be donated or thrown away if broken. Do not put them in the recycling bins.

Plastic bags present another problem. Recyclables should never be put in plastic bags. Plastic bags are not recyclable in curbside programs. They jam the source separating equipment at recycling facilities. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to your local grocery store and plastic trash bags should be used for trash only not recyclables.

Most curbside recylcing programs in Chester County collect mixed paper, flattened corrugated cardboard cut down to 18” x 24”, glass bottles and jars, steel and aluminum cans, clean aluminum foil and pie tins, empty steel aerosol cans, and plastic bottles and containers labeled #1-5 plus 7 (if there is no recycling symbol, throw it out).  No Styrofoam, polystyrene, or foam.  Everything else should be thrown away and that’s okay!  If you really want to do something positive for the planet, do it right:  if in doubt, throw it out!

Still unsure or want to know more? Contact your hauler or visit for more information.

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