Recycling's Dirty Dozen — Recapping The 12 Items That Should NOT Go in Your Curbside Cart

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen — Recapping The 12 Items That Should NOT Go in Your Curbside Cart

  • Editor’s Note: This article concludes a yearlong series of articles on the “Dirty Dozen”—  items that should NOT go in your recycling cart but may have other recycling options in your community. The series was written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland in conjunction with other members of the Illinois Task Force for Recycling Contamination Solutions. For more information, contact Jarland at at 630-208-3841 or

Sometimes, it’s as important to recycle information as it is to recycle right.

This article is a recap of the year-long series posted on Kane County Connects on recycling’s “Dirty Dozen,” those items that really don’t belong in your curbside recycling bin.

We share this summary so that you’ll have an easy reference tool and so that more people will take part in the effort — not just to recycle, but to recycle responsibly.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: No. 1 — Clearing Up Confusion on Plastics

Originally Posted Aug. 5, 2019

Here are some non-recyclable plastics:

  • No plastic bags or flexible plastic packaging. See Plastic Film Recycling for a drop-off locator.
  • No formed/ridged plastic packaging.
  • No straws, cups or lids.
  • No plastic plates, trays or plastic utensils.
  • No candy wrappers, cereal bags, snack bags or chip packets.
  • No plastic toys or chairs or shelves.
  • No hoses, cables, ropes, or other “tanglers”.
  • No black plastic.
  • No empty motor oil, pesticide, or chemical bottles.
  • No diapers! Can you believe we have to list this!?
  • NO Styrofoam, polystyrene (do not put in curbside bin, but deliver to Dart Container Corp, 310 Evergreen Dr., North Aurora, 630-896-4631, Recycle Drop-Off is open 24/7. Dart accepts: foam blocks, clean food containers. NO straws, cup lids, paper, or packing peanuts. UPS stores will reuse clean, bagged and unmixed foam peanuts.)

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen — No. 2: Textiles Do NOT Go in The Recycling Cart!

Originally posted Aug. 30, 2019

Clothes and textiles don’t belong in your curbside bin — but reuse and recycling is the best disposal option for used clothing, linens, blankets, and other textiles regardless of condition.

This article will show you easy ways to do that.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: No. 3 — Household Hazardous Waste

Originally posted Sept. 20, 2019

Many types of HHW aren’t recyclable. For those products, the focus is on keeping hazardous materials out of the landfills and water supply.

This article takes a closer look at how to identify HHW and the nearest places to dispose them in Kane County, IL.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen — No. 4: What You SHOULD Do With 3 Billion Dead Batteries

Originally posted Oct. 18, 2019

It’s very important not to place batteries in the curbside recycling carts as recycling facilities and truck fires have been caused from batteries becoming damaged by the sorting or heavy equipment crushing them.

This article shows how you SHOULD dispose of batteries — of all sorts.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen — No. 5: Plastic Bags Are The WORST Contaminant in Your Recycling Bin!

Originally Posted Nov. 15, 2019

Plastic bags are the WORST contaminant in the recycling bin, in other words the most common and most problematic material in the recycling bin that SHOULD NOT be in there in the first place.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen — No. 6: Do NOT Put Frozen Food Boxes in The Bin

Originally posted Dec. 20, 2019

Frozen food boxes pose a challenge to the recycling process. Paperboard boxes that were designed for freezer foods, such as frozen pizza and entrées, are impregnated with a plastic polymer to protect against freezer burn. The plastic prevents the box from breaking up in the recycling process.

These materials are not recyclable nor compostable. Please put them in the trash.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen — No. 7: Dangerous Biohazards Are Hurting Recycling Efforts

Originally posted Jan. 10, 2020

Please keep dangerous stuff like biohazards out of the recycling bin. By biohazards we mean things like needles, diapers and dog doo doo.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: No. 8 — No Crushing Containers! (But You Should Flatten Cardboard Boxes)

Originally posted Feb. 17, 2020

Although flattening containers — like cartons, plastic bottles and cans — may save room in your recycling bin, please refrain from crushing these items, as it makes them harder to sort correctly in single-stream recycling systems.

However, you can still flatten cardboard and corrugated boxes!

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: No. 9 — It’s NOT OK To Put Shredded Paper in The Bin

Originally posted May 22, 2020

The Illinois Task Force for Recycling Contamination Solutions wants to remind you that, while shredded paper used to be allowed in recycling carts, IT ISN’T ANY MORE!

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: No. 10 — Yucky Stuff NEVER Goes in Your Curbside Bin

Originally posted June 5, 2020

Anything that is covered in “yucky stuff” should be kept out of the recycling cart.

If it is a recyclable item and you can clean it, great, do so and recycle it, but if not trash it. Applause to all of the committed recyclers out there, but there are some things to remember as you are putting the items in your bin.

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: No. 11 — Beware The Tanglers!

Originally posted June 19, 2020

Tanglers are one of the most common types of non-recyclable “contaminants” faced by sorting facilities or Materials Recovery Facilities. But, what is a tangler, and why does it cause problems?

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen: No. 12 — Keep Scrap Metal OUT of Your Curbside Cart

Originally posted July 17, 2020

Old metal hangers or BBQ grills, broken gutters, and even some car parts are all recyclable — but none of them can be placed in curbside recycling carts.

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