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What to recycle and where

Never know what to recycle when faced with the big blue bin? Check out this list and help Austin move closer to its Zero Waste goal

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Austin Photo Set: News_Melissa_recycling_jan 2012_sorting plant
Sorting through recycling. Photo via Resource Natural

I suspect many of you have found yourselves standing in front of your blue city recycling cart, item in hand, wondering whether to toss it in or take it to the trash. Slick paper. Pizza boxes. Plastic marked #1 through #7 (have you ever noticed that?). Plastic cup lids. Styrofoam. Cardboard. Bottle caps. Juice boxes, milk cartons. Coat hangers. Old frying pans.

Sometimes I go for broke, figuring it’s better to try and recycle it than throw it away. Other times I feel more cautious, afraid that putting in the wrong item will end up ruining an entire load of otherwise recyclable material.

As Austin works toward an ambitious Zero Waste goal, it becomes more important to resolve this dilemma correctly.

Here’s the official list of what does go into your cart, from the city’s web site and an Austin Resource Recovery spokesperson:

  • Paper, including newspaper, office paper, junk mail, envelopes and wrapping paper.
  • Boxboard and cardboard, the corrugated stuff as well as shoe boxes, cereal boxes, gift boxes (unless they have a slick or waxy coating), beverage containers (the box those 12 sodas came in) and food containers such as mac and cheese, rice and granola bar boxes (any box that isn’t soiled by the food it contains).
  • Aluminum and metal food and beverage cans.
  • Glass jars and bottles.
  • Plastic containers marked #1 through #7, including plastic drink bottle lids as well as yogurt and margarine tubs, gallon milk jugs, plastic drink cups, plastic lids and straws.

The official list of what does not go into your bin:

  • Plastic bags (these get caught in the machinery).
  • Styrofoam, including styrofoam drink cups, egg cartons and take-out containers.
  • Pizza take-out or delivery boxes (because of the grease).
  • Yard waste and leaves.
  • Food waste and garbage (broad category, granted).
  • Helium tanks (hmmm).
  • Large metal items such as frying pans and pipe.
  • Plastic items larger than a gallon-sized jug, such as buckets or bins.
  • Wire or plastic coat hangers.

Of course, just because something can’t be recycled through the city’s single-stream carts doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled at all.

Take plastic shopping bags, bags labeled #2 and #4, and plastic film (including: dry cleaner bags; the plastic film around cases of water bottles; single-serve popcorn bags; toilet paper and other paper goods; plastic around electronics, shoes and clothing; the bags packaging bread and tortillas; and the bag your newspapers and magazines arrive in) to collection bins at all area HEB stores, as well as some Randall’s and Targets.

You can take styrofoam, plastic flower pots marked #2 and #5, and #4 bags and foam to HDi  Plastics at 5330 Fleming Court, #100. Everything should be clean, dry and free of other materials. A drop-off ramp at the back of the building is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. HDi doesn’t want styrofoam packing peanuts; take those to your local UPS or other shipping store for re-use.

Certain types of metal items, pipe and wire can be sold for the going per-pound rate at Beaman Metals, 3409 East Fifth Street.

Most dry cleaners will take back wire coat hangers. If yours won’t, encourage them to do so. Some re-sale shops and shelters can also use coat hangers.

Old electronics are accepted at Goodwill donation centers, where they will be re-used or recycled. Radio Shack stores accept cell phones and some batteries, while Lowe’s and Target stores recycle cell phones.

Search for where to recycle specific items on the Earth911 website. If you still can’t find a way to recycle something, think about whether it can be re-used in some way.

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