Support recycling by recycling the right stuff
We often get questions about what happens to recycling and whether items really get recycled.
Here in the Twin Cities, you can be assured the recycling you put in your cart is getting recycled as long as the materials are accepted in your program and prepared properly. Minnesota state law requires this.
There continues to be a demand for our recycled materials by manufacturers who make them into new products, and recyclers continue to invest in new technology to make recycling more advanced and efficient.
Although you might want to recycle everything, the best thing you can do to support recycling is to only recycle the items accepted in your program and keep stuff that isn’t recycled out.
Know what goes in your recycling cart
Brush up on the basics to make sure you're recycling the right stuff. See our recycling guide (PDF) for the list of what's accepted. These items can be sorted properly at recycling facilities and made into new products.
Take these steps to help ensure your plastic items get recycled:
- Empty and rinse your containers – they don’t have to be perfectly clean, but they should be free of most food or other residue.
- Leave caps and lids on the bottle or container – they can be recycled if left on the bottle!
- Keep recyclable plastic items in their original shape, don't crush them – this helps ensure they get sorted correctly at the recycling facility.
Keep these items out of your recycling cart
Plastic bags and wrap get tangled in the equipment at recycling sorting facilities and workers spend hours each day removing them. Plastic bags and wrap can be recycled if brought back to a retail drop-off location.
Bags of recycling
Recycling in bags don’t get properly sorted at the recycling facility, and recyclers can’t tell what’s in the bag. Make sure to place your recycling loose in your recycling cart.
Large plastic items
Large plastic items like laundry baskets, storage bins, lawn furniture, and plastic toys, and other large plastic items can't be recycled. There are not good markets for recycling these items, and they are difficult to sort at recycling facilities. Purchase high-quality items, use them for as long as possible, and donate items that are in good shape when you're ready to get rid of them.
Random metal items
Random metal items such as pots and pans, pipes, hangers, and tools can damage equipment and harm workers at recycling facilities. All metal can be recycled, just not in your recycling cart at home. Take random metal items to a scrap metal recycler; find locations on the Green Disposal Guide.
Cylinders and tanks contain a compressed gas that makes them explosive and potential fire hazards. It is illegal to put propane tanks, helium tanks, and other pressurized cylinders in your household recycling or trash. Properly dispose of all pressurized cylinders; find options on the Green Disposal Guide.
Single-use plastic utensils and straws
Plastic utensils and straws are too small and difficult to sort at recycling facilities, and there aren’t stable recycling markets for them. Avoid them by choosing reusable options or refusing them when you can.
Paper plates, cups, and takeout containers
Paper cups, plates, takeout containers can’t be recycled because they are often lined with plastic or contaminated with food. Avoid them by choosing reusable cups, mugs and plates.
Electronics and batteries
Electronics and batteries can’t be sorted properly at recycling facilities, and certain batteries can cause fires at facilities. But batteries and electronics should be recycled at drop-offs. Learn options for batteries and electronics on the Green Disposal Guide.
Cords and string lights
Keep “tanglers” like cords, hoses and string lights out of your recycling bin. As the name suggests, these items get tangled in the equipment at recycling facilities. You can recycle cords and string lights at Hennepin County drop-off facilities. Learn more on the Green Disposal Guide.
Needles and sharps
Needles and sharps should be managed and disposed of safely to prevent injury and disease transmission from needle-sticks. They should never be placed in your recycling cart. Learn about disposal options on the Green Disposal Guide.