Zero Waste: The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen List of items that should NEVER go in your single-stream recycling cart.


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    Zero Waste: The Dirty Dozen KGNU News

Dirty Dozen commentary Part I

Most of you probably already know what CAN go in your cart, but if not, or if you’re not absolutely sure, take a look at Boulder County’s new recycling guidelines which came out last October.

Keeping the wrong stuff, which we call contaminants, out of your recycling cart is just as important as putting the right stuff in it.


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Dirty Dozen commentary Part II

So what are the top things to avoid?

#1 is FOOD. Food should never go in your recycle cart. Instead, compost food scraps. If there’s food residue in a container you’re recycling, simply give it a quick rinse with a little water, shake it to loosen food, and pour the dirty water in the sink before you toss the container in the recycling bin. If it’s the proverbial nut butter jar, then scrape out as much as you possibly can. I let my dog do most of the work. And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be spotless.

So why is food a big deal? For starters, food contamination can cause paper to start to degrade before it’s even on its way to the recycling market. Food can also attract rodents and stinging insects to the facility, which is partially outdoors, creating a health hazard for the people who help sort your recyclables.

This is a problem not just with food, but also with liquid. #2 on the dirty dozen list is bottles with liquids in them. Please be sure to empty and rinse all beverage containers before recycling them.

Be sure to check out Eco-Cycle’s Dirty Dozen list of items that do NOT go in your recycling cart at Eco-Cycle’s website.


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Dirty Dozen commentary Part III

The Dirty Dozen: Please keep these materials OUT of the recycling bin.

1) NO Syringes, Needles, Sharps, any other kind of Medical Waste or Diapers.

2) NO Explosive or Hazardous Materials such as Ammunition, Motor Oil or Solvents.

3) NO Plastic Bags, they bind up sorting equipment.


Take clean, dry and empty plastic bags to the CHaRM (Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials) or participating grocery stores.

4) NO Food Waste INSTEAD: Compost it.

5) NO Plastic Packaging such as Block Foam, Packing Peanuts, Bubble Wrap,

Plastic Shrink Wrap or Film.


Take #6 white block foam and bubble wrap to the CHaRM. Packing peanuts

are NOT accepted at the CHaRM.

6) NO Shredded Paper. Shredded paper is too small to sort — the pieces gum up sorting equipment.


Compost shredded paper or recycle it in the bin marked “Shredded Paper” at the Boulder County Re-cycling Center or Longmont Waste Diversion Center.

7) NO Scrap Metal. It damages sorting equipment.


Recycle scrap metal items at the CHaRM.

8) NO Liquids Left in Bottles or Containers. Liquids attract rodents and stinging insects to the recycling plant, and degrade the paper in the single-stream, making the paper non-recyclable.

9) NO Non-Recyclable Plastics like Plastic Cups or Foam Cups/To-Go Containers. No stable markets exist to re-manufacture these materials into new items.

10) NO Ceramics, Drinking Glasses, Light Bulbs or Other Non-Recyclable Glass. These create dangerous flaws in new glass bottles.

11) NO Frozen Food Boxes, Ice-Cream Containers or Other Plastic-Coated paper. Their plastic coatings are not recyclable.

12) NO Flattened Containers. Automated sorting equipment separates 2-dimensional or “flat” materials (paper) from 3-dimensional or “round” materials (containers). The equipment will mistakenly sort flattened containers as paper.


KGNU will bring you recycling tips and covering zero waste issues throughout the year in partnership with Eco-Cycle, thanks to a grant from Boulder County.


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