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Advanced Recycling Info
We know recycling can be confusing.
Here you'll find answers to the most common questions asked about Pierce County's recycling program. If your question isn't answered here, please let us know!
Want to talk to a person? 
Call (253) 798-2179, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
Preparation
It's easy to prepare recyclables. Just follow these tips.
DO
doGive food/drink items a quick rinse to keep your cart clean and odor free
yesRemove and discard lids
(see tip for metal can lids below)
doFlatten cardboard boxes to save space in your cart
DON'T
don'tRemove can labels, plastic windows from envelopes or plastic spouts on cartons
don'tCrush cans
(it makes them harder to sort if you do)
don'tBag your recyclables—they
should be loose in the cart
Metal Can Lids
Loose lids, especially those with sharp edges, don't belong in your cart.
But if you leave the lid attached to the can you can recycle them together.

Follow these steps:
lid11.Leave the lid partially attached when you open the can.
lid22.Empty the can, rinse it out and push the lid inside.
lid33.Pinch can together at the top so the lid stays inside.
Cart Placement
Give your driver a hand by putting your cart in the right place on collection day.
cart placement
Can it go into my curbside recycling cart?
This list has detailed information about what is recyclable in your curbside cart or at recycling centers in Pierce County. The information below applies to customers in Pierce County's system only (which does not include the City of Tacoma).

Use our online recycling menu to find options for things that don't belong in your curbside cart.
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Plastic
Bags and Baggies
trashTrash
Take to participating grocery store for recycling
Blister packaging
trashTrash
Has foil backing. Gum, lozenges, medications, etc.
Bottle caps
trashTrash
 
Bottles (ALL)
RecycleRecycle
No lids
Bubble wrap
trashTrash
 
Buckets
RecycleRecycle
Remove handles
Chip bags
trashTrash
 
Clamshell packaging
trashTrash
Clear w/hinge. Berries, salad, toys, cosmetics.
Cups
trashTrash
Cold drinks, Solo cups, etc.
Cutlery or utensils
trashTrash
 
Deli containers
trashTrash
Rigid tub containers can be rinsed and recycled.
Egg cartons (foam, plastic)
trashTrash
 
Film and wrap
trashTrash
 
Foam blocks, Styrofoam™
trashTrash
Foam packing peanuts
trashTrash
Furniture
trashTrash
Patio chairs, tables
Garden hoses
trashTrash
 
Hangers, plastic
trashTrash
 
Juice pouches
trashTrash
 
Jugs
RecycleRecycle
Milk, juice, detergent, soap, etc.
Lids (ALL)
trashTrash
 
Liner bags
trashTrash
Bags inside boxes. Cereal, cracker, etc.
Paint containers (Empty)
trashTrash
Latex paint must be dried up before throwing away
Pet food bags
trashTrash
 
Pill bottles, OTC (Empty)
RecycleRecycle
Over-the-counter medication and supplement bottles
Pill bottles, Rx (Empty)
trashTrash
Plant pots, rigid
RecycleRecycle
Reuse or throw away crinkly, lightweight pots
Plates
trashTrash
 
Pools, Kiddie
trashTrash
 
Single-serve coffee pods
trashTrash
K-cups™
Sleeves or inserts
trashTrash
Crinkly plastic. Cookie trays, etc.
Straws
trashTrash
 
Tubs
RecycleRecycle
Yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, margarine
Wrappers
trashTrash
Candy and granola bars, etc.
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Paper
Books, hardcover
trashTrash
Books, paperback
recycleRecycle
Boxboard, paperboard
recycleRecycle
Cereal, cracker, pasta, tissue, detergent boxes
Cardboard cans
trashTrash
Pringles, juice concentrate
Cardboard, corrugated
recycleRecycle
Flatten boxes to save space in your cart.
Cartons, milk/juice
recycleRecycle
Refrigerated, gable top. Plastic spouts are ok.
Cartons, soup/soy milk
trashTrash
Non-refrigerated, aseptic
Coffee trays
recycleRecycle
To carry to-go cups
Cotton balls/pads
trashTrash
 
Cups
trashTrash
Disposable coffee and fast food drink cups
Disposable mop cloths
trashTrash
Swiffer cloths
Dryer sheets
trashTrash
 
Egg carton
recycleRecycle
 
Envelopes
recycleRecycle
Windows do not need to be removed
Envelopes, padded
trashTrash
 
Ice cream carton
trashTrash
 
Juice boxes
trashTrash
 
Magazines
recycleRecycle
 
Mail
recycleRecycle
 
Napkins
trashTrash
 
Newspapers
recycleRecycle
 
Paper (ALL)
recycleRecycle
Copy, writing, ruled, colored, construction, etc.
Paper towels
trashTrash
 
Paper towel rolls
recycleRecycle
 
Parchment paper
trashTrash
Used for cooking
Pet food bags
trashTrash
 
Phone books
recycleRecycle
 
Photographs
trashTrash
 
Pizza box, greasy
trashTrash
Never put pizza boxes in your yard waste container.
Pizza box, NO grease
recycleRecycle
Must be clean. Never put in your yard waste container.
Plates
trashTrash
 
Popcorn bag
trashTrash
 
Receipts
trashTrash
 
Ribbons, bows
trashTrash
 
Sanitizing wipes
trashTrash
Lysol wipes, etc.
Shredded paper
recycleRecycle
Put in paper bag, roll top down. Find shred events.
Take-out containers
trashTrash
 
Tissues
trashTrash
 
Tissue paper
trashTrash
 
Toilet paper rolls
recycleRecycle
 
Wax paper
trashTrash
 
Wrapping paper, foil
trashTrash
Foil and metallic paper cannot be recycled
Wrapping paper, plain
recycleRecycle
 
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Metal
Aerosol cans (empty)
trashTrash
 
Aerosol cans (full/partial)
hhwHHW
Aluminum baking trays
trashTrash
 
Aluminum foil
trashTrash
 
Aluminum pie plates
trashTrash
 
Batteries, alkaline
trashTrash
 
Batteries, rechargeable
hhwHHW
Beer cans
RecycleRecycle
 
Bottle caps
trashTrash
 
Hangers, wire
trashTrash
Reuse or recycle as scrap metal
Metal cans
RecycleRecycle
Soup, beans, tomatoes, pet food, etc.
Paint cans (Empty)
trashTrash
Latex paint must be dried up before throwing away
Pop or soda cans
RecycleRecycle
Aluminum
Propane tanks
hhwHHW
Sharps, needles, syringes
hhwHHW
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Glass
Dishes and ceramics
trashTrash
 
Drinking glasses
trashTrash
 
Light bulbs, CFL
hhwHHW
Take fluorescent bulbs to a drop-off site
Light bulbs, Not CFL
trashTrash
Incandescent and LED bulbs are not hazardous
Mirrors
trashTrash
 
Windows
trashTrash
 
Your Top 5 Questions
These are the questions we get asked most often.
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Why don't you accept everything like [city/county/state/country] does?
Each county in Washington is responsible for the design of the recycling programs they offer. Some cities, like the City of Tacoma, manage their own solid waste systems—so they make their own decisions about their recycling programs. There are a number of factors that influence the programs, including policies, hauling companies and recycling facilities. Elected officials also make decisions about people's ability and willingness to pay for extra services. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Our choice is to manage a recycling system that is both environmentally and economically sustainable. We want the material collected in our recycling program to actually be recycled into new products. When an accepted item doesn't have a recycling market, it ends up going through costly collection and processing only to become trash. Pierce County's recycling program doesn't accept “everything,” but we have a sustainable program that can withstand market fluctuations, both regulatory and monetary.
We don't want you to recycle “more” if it results in more contamination. We want you to recycle the right things and work on reducing the total amount of waste you generate.
If you are interested in learning more about solid waste management in Pierce County, attend a SWAC meeting. The Solid Waste Advisory Committee meets the second Wednesday of most months.
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Why don't you pick up glass?
Glass doesn’t belong in the curbside cart because it breaks and contaminates the other recyclables. These little pieces of glass are difficult to recover during the sorting process. Broken glass is also very abrasive (think sand). It is hard on the equipment at the sorting facilities and at the pulp mills when it ends up in bales of paper.
Even without curbside collection, glass makes up less than 6 percent of the total trash going to the landfill in Pierce County. Meanwhile, recyclable paper, plastic and metal make up almost 20 percent of the total trash—a much bigger problem and a higher priority for us to focus our efforts and resources on.
Glass collected separately from other recyclables has a much better chance of being recycled. There are currently more than 30 drop-off sites for glass around Pierce County.
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Why can't all plastic be recycled?
“Plastic” is a general term for a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials. These materials have different ingredients and are made in different ways. Because of this, not all plastics can be recycled.
resin codeThat “recycling symbol” on your container is actually a resin code. It identifies the type of plastic the container is made from—but it can't tell you if something is recycleable. Shape determines how a container travels through the sorting facility, and the plastics we collect are sturdy enough to hold their shape during sorting. Crinkly items are easily crushed and incorrectly sorted into paper bales.
When it comes to plastic recycling, think rigid containers—not crinkly.
We ACCEPT:
Plastic bottles, jars, jugs, tubs, buckets and plant pots.
We do NOT accept:
Cold drink cups, clamshell containers, plates, trays, utensils, straws, film and wrap.
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Does it really matter if I do it wrong? Don't people sort the recyclables?
Recyclables are sorted using a combination of automation and manual labor, and the people who work on the sort lines have difficult jobs. The belt moves at a high speed and they must pick dozens of items per minute.
Most of this time is spent pulling out non-program items like plastic bags and plastic film while avoiding dangerous items like needles and ammunition. It just isn't reasonable to place the burden of sorting on the pickers, especially when we can make the right choices about sorting at home before the curbside cart is even picked up.
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What can I do with food waste?
We only accept plant material in our yard waste program. If you can grow it in a garden, it can go into the bin (Cabbage=YES/Cole slaw=NO, Tomatoes=YES/Lasagna=NO).
In 2012, we studied the impacts of adding food waste to our system. The study included extensive public outreach; and feedback from residents influenced our decision to keep food waste out of our collection program. Learn more about the study.
The yard waste collected and composted in Pierce County becomes a high-quality, organic soil amendment called Cascade Compost. Compost and potting soil is available to purchase in bags and in bulk.
If you want to learn how to compost your food scraps at home, our environmental educators teach free classes throughout the year.