The ‘Dirty Dozen’ of Recycling — 12 Things That Should NOT Go In The Bin

The ‘Dirty Dozen’ of Recycling — 12 Things That Should NOT Go In The Bin

  • Editor’s Note: This article, written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, is an introduction to a series on the “Dirty Dozen” of recycling — the 12 items that should NOT go in the bin. Got questions or concerns? Contact Jarland at at 630-208-3841 or

A task force made up of the top recycling minds Illinois has launched a campaign to help us consumers better understand what we should and should NOT put into our recycling bins.

Recycling Task Force

According to the task force formed made up of industry stakeholders, one of the biggest hurdles to recycling efforts is “wish-cycling,” the habit of throwing something in the recycling bin because we wish it to be recyclable.

The problem is, many of those products can’t be recycled because there is no market for the recycled materials. Some of the “Dirty Dozen” products can’t be easily sorted, marketed or recycled into new products.

Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland says the problem is endemic.

“There are other options for recycling many of these things,” she said. “But none of them should be going in your curbside recycling!”

Introducing The ‘Dirty Dozen’

An employee removes tangled plastic shopping bags from a clogged sorting machine. That’s one reason plastic bags are part of recycling’s Dirty Dozen.

So, what products should NOT go into the bin?

To better explain, the task force has come up with the “Dirty Dozen — a hit list of things we commonly find in the recycling that should NOT be in there.”

The Dirty Dozen are:

  1.  Non-Recyclable Plastics
  2.  Clothing
  3.  Household Hazardous Waste
  4.  Batteries
  5.  Plastic Bags
  6.  Frozen Food Containers
  7.  Bio-hazards: Diapers and Syringes
  8.  Flattened Containers
  9.  Yucky Stuff: Food and Liquids
  10. Shredded paper
  11. Tanglers
  12. Scrap Metal

Members of the task force will explain in detail the proper recycling habits for each of those items in a series of monthly columns you can read right here on Kane County Connects.

The series starts today, with this introduction of the Dirty Dozen, and we’ll follow up with the first in the series on Friday (Aug. 2, 2019), when Jarland authors the “how-to” on non-recyclable plastics.

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