Frequently Asked Questions

Where to Recycle | Recyclables


Why Recycle?
The environmental and economic premise of recycling is sound: re-using natural resources over and over again after they have been extracted form the earth makes good sense. By conserving the dwindling supply of these resources and protecting the few remaining undamaged ecosystems left on the earth, we are preserving them for future generations. Overall, the processes used to make consumer goods from recycled material instead of raw resources are much more energy and water efficient. For example, recycled paper uses 60-70 percent less energy than virgin pulp and 55 percent less water. Also, making recycled products reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the need to build landfills.


Why can’t I recycle all plastics?
Most plastics can be recycled if there were markets (i.e., manufacturers who would use the plastic and turn it into a new product). Markets are the key factor in recycling all products.


Why do I need to recycle my old thermostat?
Many thermostats used to control room temperatures in your home contain mercury. To identify mercury thermostats, remove the front plate and look for one or more small glass bulbs, known as tilt switches. These tilt switches contain mercury. Each tilt switch contains roughly three grams of mercury, though some may contain up to six grams. Mercury is very toxic and can leak out of the tilt switch bulbs to contaminate air, water and soil. These old thermostats should never be disposed of in the trash or local landfill. To assist home-owners with proper disposal of mercury-containing thermostats, a no-cost collection/recycling program is available to all residents. To determine a drop-off location in your area, contact your local county sanitarian. Visit the Mercury-Containing Thermostat Disposal web page.


Why can’t I recycle neon/fluorescent/Astrobrite/dark-colored paper? How about construction paper?
These dark or super-bright papers are made with beater dyes, so named because they beat the dye into the fiber of the paper to get a dark or fluorescent color. Because there is so much ink in the fiber, it cannot be recycled in our recycling program because it is not possible to remove all the color from the paper in the recycling process. Dark paper may still be recyclable if the ink is printed on the paper as opposed to beaten into the paper fiber (e.g., a brochure printed on light paper with dark ink). To tell the difference, tear a corner of the paper. If the color goes all the way through, it can’t be recycled. If there are white fibers inside, it can be recycled with office paper.


Sometimes we are asked to put different types of paper into different containers. Why is this?
Manufacturing mills that use waste paper require certain quality and grades of paper that have been found to be suitable for manufacturing different products. Also, waste paper is a commodity whose different grades and qualities carry different values. It makes economic sense to separate out high quality grades. Paper is further sorted back at a recycling facility. There are more than 50 grades of waste paper divided into 11 groups. These groups cover material that can be used for recycled newsprint, tissues and industrial wipes, stationery and packaging.


Can I recycle cardboard pizza boxes?
Pizza boxes, while they do hold food, can be recycled. Made of corrugated cardboard, pizza boxes are a high-grade material that moves quickly through the market. However, most recyclers cannot accept pizza boxes soaked in grease and covered with cheese. If the box has lots of grease and cheese, tear that part off and throw it away (or compost it) and recycle the remaining part. And please wipe away any sauce or crumbs before tossing the box in the bin.


Why won't recyclers take cereal boxes along with cardboard?
If a recycler takes cereal boxes at all, they will probably accept it along with mixed waste paper. The "cardboard" from which cereal boxes are made is really known as chipboard or paperboard. It is not the same grade of paper as the corrugated cardboard used to make shipping and moving boxes. Of these two types of cardboard, corrugated cardboard has a much higher value as a recycled raw material. Chipboard has little or no value as a recycled raw material. If a recycling company tries to sell a bale of corrugated cardboard with chipboard mixed into it, the buyer might refuse not only the bale in question, but anything else the recycling company tries to bring in later. If the demand for products made from recycled chipboard increases, perhaps paper mills will be more willing to take it as a raw material (and pay a better price). The more attention we consumers give to purchasing recycled products, the better the chances that the economics of recycling will improve.


How do I recycle electronics?
Visit our Where To Recycle page to find a program that meets your needs.


When is the next E-waste collection event?
Check out the Collection Event Schedule This schedule is updated periodically, so please check back often.

How do I protect my security?
Freeware that wipes hard drives clean and software that destroys data.

Why should I recycle my electronics?
Televisions and computers each contain three to eight pounds of lead, and like most electronics, can contain a host of other toxic substances such as cadmium, mercury and arsenic. These toxic substances could contaminate groundwater when landfilled.


Why do I have to pay to recycle electronics?
Unlike aluminum cans, which have enough value that consumers can get paid to drop them off for recycling, electronics have little value in their current form. Although electronics do contain small amounts of gold, mercury, cadmium, chromium, nickel, zinc and other materials, recoverable amounts are not sufficient to generate significant income for recyclers. The fee you pay to recycle electronics helps offset the cost of collection, transportation, storage and marketing of the materials. In most cases, items must be disassembled before they can be recycled, a labor-intensive process that often requires handling toxic substances.


Can I buy a computer with fewer hazardous materials?
To learn about purchasing computers which are manufactured with reduced hazardous materials and increased ease of recycling, visit the EPEAT website.


Why are alkaline batteries not always recyclable?
Though it is possible to reclaim some metal from alkaline batteries, these batteries are not often recycled. Where they have been collected, it has generally been for disposal as a hazardous material. Mercury has been the ingredient of most concern in alkaline batteries. As currently manufactured, however, these batteries contain only a fraction of the mercury they once did. Many counties have therefore determined that the reduced risk in sending alkaline batteries to the landfill does not warrant the expense of collecting them for special disposal or recycling. You might consider switching to rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, which are widely recycled--after being reused many times.

Rechargeable batteries are not always NICAD, or are they?
No, they are not. Many cell phone and camcorder batteries, for instance, are small lead-acid batteries (the same materials used in a car's rechargeable battery). If you follow proper maintenance, such as recharging batteries only after the charge has been exhausted, they will last longer. For a wealth of information on rechargeable household batteries, visit the Green Batteries Responsible Renewable Energy Web site.