Frequently Asked Questions
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers
Q: I'm just one person …how much of a difference can I make?
A: You can make an enormous impact simply by making small changes in your habits. Each of us throws away about seven pounds of waste a day. Most of what you place at the curb as trash can actually be recycled, reused or composted. So, instead of tossing those items into the garbage bin, recognize that recycling grows the economy; reduces pollution; conserves energy, landfill space and natural resources; and preserves the environment for future generations.
Q: What types of trash and recycling services are available in my community?
A: Most communities in the Kansas City metro area offer a combination of “core services” — a variety of waste disposal options either through curbside collection or drop-off alternatives:
- Recycling - Items that contain useful materials that can be made into new products.
- Trash - Only stuff that can’t be recycled/reused.
- Yard waste - Leaves, brush, grass clippings.
- Household hazardous waste - hazardous materials such as paint, lawn and garden chemicals, automotive fluids, cleaners, and batteries
- Bulky item pick-up - Old furniture, appliances or other large items.
- Community cleanup days - One-time collections organized by a community.
These services are often complemented with special one-day collection events for HHW, electronics waste, paper shred or other reusable or recyclable items. Visit your community’s page to see what services are offered in your city or county. A list of recycling drop-off centers is available here.
Q: How should I prepare recyclables for the recycle bin or drop-off recycling center?
A: Follow these simple steps for proper preparation:
- Empty, rinse (a quick swish), and squash all plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
- Flatten cardboard boxes.
- Leave labels on containers
- Consolidate lids and caps (this keeps them from falling through sorting machinery and going in the trash):
- Plastic lids and caps - Fill plastic tub (yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) with plastic lids and caps, put lid on, throw in recycling bin.
- Metal caps and lids – Partially fill tin can with lids and caps, crimp top shut, throw in recycling bin.
Q: If I’m not sure whether something is recyclable, should I go ahead and throw it in the bin?
A: No, items that aren’t accepted by your recycling program contaminate and lower the value of the items that are accepted and can damage recycling equipment. To learn what specific items can and can’t be recycled contact your service provider.
Q: Why can't I recycle certain materials?
A: To successfully recycle a material, three conditions must be met: the ability to collect it, the ability to process it, and a viable end market where companies purchase the material and make new products with it. If any one of these three is not available within a region, the material cannot be recycled.
Q: Once recycled material leaves my curb or the recycling center, what happens to it?
A: Materials are taken to a materials recovery facility (MRF). At the MRF, every item is separated according to type and baled. The MRF then ships the materials to brokers or directly to manufacturers. The recyclables are then made into new products, closing the recycling loop. There are three MRFs that serve the Kansas City metro area. This Waste Management video shows the step-by-step process of how materials are processed once they reach a MRF.
Q: What types of material can’t be recycled in the Kansas City metro area?
A: Most of what we set out for the trash can be recycled, composted or reused. However, here are some common items that cannot be recycled in the Kansas City metro area:
Where can't I recycle it?
Styrofoam food containers
Takeout cartons, egg cartons, meat trays, coffee cups
Food contamination, low economic value
Microwave food trays
Food contamination, low economic value
Medical and personal hygiene items
Prescription bottles, syringes, diapers
- Prescription bottle contain harmful residues and have personal info printed on them.
- Syringes can puncture skin and spread pathogens.
- Diapers can spread harmful bacteria.
Hazardous substance containers
Automotive fluids, lawn and garden products, paint containers
Hazardous: carcinogenic residues can remain making plastic unusable
Plastic bags made of multiple material types
Potato chip, frozen vegetable, dog food, Ziploc®, coffee bags
Made from multiple types of plastic resins or combined with other materials that cannot be recycled together
Mirrors, windows, dishware, light bulbs
Hazardous, low, to no economic value
*The only type of glass the can be recycled in the metro area is food and beverage containers. They can still be recycled if they are broken.
Q: Are the materials I recycle really being recycled?
A: Yes they are. Haulers wouldn’t offer recycling if there were no profit in it. Some haulers empty curbside recycling bins into the classic trash or "packer" trucks. Others collect recyclables and trash in ’split’ trucks. But don’t worry, it all gets sorted out at the Material Recovery Facility — your recyclables are being recycled!
Q: What do recycling fees pay for?
A: Recycling is a service just like any other we service we pay for: trash pickup, gas, water, electricity, etc. Revenues cover the cost to collect (such as fuel, personnel and vehicle maintenance), process, and ship recyclable materials.
Q: I need some reliable facts and figures on recycling, can you help?
A: Yes, the following statistics come from reliable sources. See endnotes for more info.
- Recycling conserves energy and natural resources by decreasing the need to extract and process virgin material from the earth.i
- Recycling reduces pollution associated with the first two stages of a product’s development: material extraction and processing.ii
- In 2012, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled or composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.5 percent recycling rate.iii
- By recycling and composting 87 million tons, we saved more than 1.1 quadrillion Btu of energy; that’s how much energy is consumed by almost 10 million U.S. households in a year.iv
- Using recycled and scrap aluminum produces an energy savings of 92 percent compared to virgin material.v
- Tossing away one aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume in gasoline.vi
- Recycling one ton of aluminum cans conserves the equivalent of 1,665 gallons of gasoline.vii
- Glass is 100 percent recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality of purity — something no other food and beverage packaging option can claim.viii
- Over 1 ton of natural resources are conserved for every ton of glass recycled, including 1,300 pounds of sand, 410 pounds of soda ash, 380 pounds of limestone, and 160 pounds of feldspar.ix
- Recycling 1,000 tons of glass creates more than eight jobs.x
- Every ton of mixed paper recycling can save the energy equivalent of 165 gallons of gasoline.xi
- Producing recycled paper takes 40 percent less energy than producing paper form virgin wood pulp.xii
- Recycled paper production creates 74 percent less air pollution and 35 percent less water pollution than virgin paper production.xiii
- Producing recycled plastic saves up to 87 percent in energy consumption compared to producing plastic from virgin materials.xiv
- Recycling 1 ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.xv
Q: Can someone give a presentation on waste reduction and recycling to my group?
A: We'd be delighted to! The MARC Solid Waste Management District offers direct education on the 3 Rs through speakers, staffing for tabling events, and a wide range of outreach materials. Request a presentation today.
Q: My company or organization accepts materials for recycling and/or resale, how can I get listed on RecycleSpot?
A: Help us, help you, help others divert waste. Add your services today!
Q: Are there any local businesses that make recyclables into new products?
A: Yes, the following companies and organizations make and sell recycled-content and reusable products in the metro area:
- Owens Corning: Manufactures fiberglass insulation from glass food and beverage containers collected by Ripple Glass.
- Missouri Organic: Mulch and compost is created from yard waste and food waste collected in the metro area.
- The Urban Lumber Company: Lumber is made from locally harvested trees that have been discarded.
- Elements of Green: A green building design company that makes recycled glass countertops and other items from locally recovered materials.
- Habitat ReStore: Collects and sells surplus and used building materials.
i Missouri Recycling Association, Show-Me Recycling, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.mora.org/uploads/1/4/0/6/14061154/smr_report.pdf (Feb. 3. 2015)
iii U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/2012_msw_fs.pdf (Feb. 3. 2015)
vInstitute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), 2014. Retrieved from http://www.isri.org/docs/default-source/commodities/fact-sheet---aluminum-copper-and-other-nonferrous-metals.pdf?sfvrsn=10 (Feb. 3. 2015)
vi Keep America Beautiful, Recycling Facts & Stats. Retrieved from http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=recycling_facts_and_stats (Feb. 3. 2015)
vii U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/2012_msw_fs.pdf
viii Glass Packaging Institute, Glass Recycling Facts. Retrieved from http://www.gpi.org/recycling/glass-recycling-facts (Feb. 3. 2015)
ix Glass Packaging Institute, Why Recycle Glass. Retrieved from http://www.gpi.org/recycling/why-recycle-glass (Feb. 3. 2015)
x Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), 2013. Retrieved from http://www.isri.org/docs/default-source/commodities/fact-sheet---glass.pdf?sfvrsn=6 (Feb. 3. 2015)
xi U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/2012_msw_fs.pdf
xii Keep America Beautiful, Recycling Facts & Stats. Retrieved from http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=recycling_facts_and_stats
ixv Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), 2014. Retrieved from http://www.isri.org/docs/default-source/commodities/fact-sheet---plastics.pdf?sfvrsn=8 (Feb. 3. 2015)
xv Keep America Beautiful, Recycling Facts & Stats. Retrieved from http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=recycling_facts_and_stats