Top Five Ways to Recycle Better

April 22 is Earth Day, the time of year when our thoughts turn to environmental issues. The MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) encourages people in the Kansas City region not only to recycle more, but to recycle better!

Contamination — when non-recyclable items end up mixed in with recycling — has become a serious issue, both in the metro area and nationwide. Many facilities that sort recycled goods as well as markets that purchase them have set stricter limits on how much contamination they will accept.

SWMD compiled the top five ways to help people recycle better and reduce contamination. This list is based on the top contaminants in the area’s recycling stream, the top materials currently being sent to the landfill, and the top materials people searched for in 2018 on RecycleSpot.org.

Number 1: Shipping materials

Cardboard boxes can be recycled both at curbside and at drop-off recycling centers. Air pillows, bubble wrap and shipping envelopes can be recycled with your plastic shopping bags at grocery stores and big box stores such as Target and Walmart. Always deflate air pillows and bubble wrap before recycling.

Number 2: Electronics (e-waste)

Anything that runs on a cord or battery is recyclable. This includes items such TVs, computers, smart phones, hair dryers, coffee makers, flashlights and watches. The following businesses accept e-waste: Best Buy, Office Depot/Office Max, Staples and Midwest Recycling Center. Always call first, as accepted items vary among businesses. E-waste cannot go in your curbside recycling bin.

Number 3: Food waste

Never put food in your recycling bin. Paper food containers, disposable tableware, frozen food containers, takeout boxes, fast food containers and paper coffee cups can’t go in the bin, either. These items aren’t recyclable because they are coated with a thin layer of plastic. 

Number 4: Hazardous waste

Expired, unwanted, or unused prescriptions and medicines can be disposed of at your local police station or pharmacy such as CVS or Walgreens.

Medical sharps such as needles should be put into a tightly closed, puncture-resistant container such as a detergent bottle and placed in your trash. There are also mail-back programs available.

Household hazardous waste (HHW) is any item with Danger, Warning or Caution on the label. This includes paint, automotive fluids, lawn and garden chemicals, pesticides, cleaners, batteries, fluorescent bulbs and many beauty products. HHW can be properly disposed through your local HHW program.

Personal hygiene items such as diapers and toilet paper are not recyclable. Diapers belong in the trash, toilet paper in the toilet.

None of these hazardous items are accepted in your recycling bin.

Number 5: Plastics

Most plastic bottles and containers with numbers 1-7 on the bottom are recyclable. Exceptions include Styrofoam food and drink containers and hazardous substance containers – automotive fluid, pesticides, etc. These are not recyclable in the Kansas City area due to their low value and high contamination.

Many plastic bags and film are recyclable and should be taken to a grocery store or big box store such as Walmart or Target. Plastic bags and film are not accepted in your recycling bin.

For more information on how to recycle better, visit RecycleSpot.org and download the Recycle Better flier in size 11×17 or 8.5×11, or call the Recycling Information Line at 816-474-8326.