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: Where can I find a list of everything that’s recyclable in the KC metro area?
A: Visit What do I do with…? for a complete list of everything that is recyclable, reusable, and compostable in the KC metro area. For an up-to-date list of what can and cannot go in your curbside recycling bin, download the Recycle More, Recycle Better flier.
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. Some of the worst offenders that should not go in your curbside bin include long, stringy items (“tanglers”) like garden hose, rope, extension cords, and shower curtains. To learn what specific items can and can’t be recycled curbside, check out our Recycle More, Recycle Better flier.
Q: Are the materials I recycle really being recycled?
A: Yes. 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: Why do I have to pay to recycle?
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 used to take my recyclables to a bin up at the local school/church, but it’s not there anymore. What happened to it?
A: In the past, schools and churches could raise funds (get rebates) by recycling. But now that it costs money to recycle, you’d just be increasing their costs instead of helping them raise funds. So schools and churches have either stopped recycling or removed their bins from public use.
Q: If an item has a recycling symbol on it or says it’s recyclable, then it’s recyclable, right?
A: Not necessarily. It all depends on if there is an end market for that material. Visit Plastics Recycling for a complete list of plastics that are and are not recyclable in the Kansas City area. For an up-to-date list of what can and cannot go in your curbside recycling bin, download the Recycle More, Recycle Better flier.
Q: Can I put plastic bags in my recycling bin?
A: No, bags and film can only be recycled at grocery stores or big box stores that accept them. Search RecycleSpot.org for the nearest location. Recycling processing facilities are not set up to recycle bags and film. They end up getting stuck in the recycling equipment and cause frequent shutdowns.
Q: Should I bag recyclables before putting them in my recycling bin?
A: No, keep items loose, do not put in bags or boxes. Putting them in bags or boxes doesn’t allow for proper sorting at the processing facility.
Q: What should I do with paint and other household chemicals that I no longer need?
A: Products labeled with DANGER, WARNING or CAUTION such as paint, cleaners, lawn and garden products, automotive fluids, bug sprays, fluorescent lights, batteries and other chemical products can all be safely disposed through your Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program.
Q: Are empty paint and chemical containers recyclable?
A: No, containers labeled with DANGER, WARNING or CAUTION that contained products such as paint, lawn and garden products, automotive fluids and other chemical products are not recyclable. If they are completely empty they should be disposed in the trash. If they still contain product, they should be disposed through your Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program. The only exception are aerosol cans - as long as they are empty and make no “hiss” sound can be recycled curbside.
Q: Can I recycle prescription drugs?
A: Prescription drugs aren’t recyclable, but they need to be properly disposed of. For options, visit Prescription Drugs.
Q: Can I recycle sharps like needles?
A: Sharps like needles, syringes, lancets and injection pens aren’t recyclable, but they need to be properly disposed of. For options, visit Prescription Drugs.
Q: Can I recycle diapers?
A: No, diapers should be disposed in the trash.
Q: Are paper food containers such as frozen food, fast food, and takeout recyclable?
A: No, these types of paper food containers have a thin plastic coating that makes them non-recyclable. The only exception are aseptic boxes (milk cartons, juice cartons, and soup, broth, wine, and juice boxes) that have a specialized end market. Aseptic boxes have either a gabled or flat top and a plastic cap. They can be recycled in your curbside bin or at recycling centers.
Q: Are disposable plates, cups and cutlery recyclable?
A: Disposable plastic plates, cups and bowls are recyclable, but only if they are clean. Plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, etc.), because of their small size and shape, fall through the sorting machinery are not recyclable. Paper tableware has a thin plastic coating that makes them non-recyclable.
Q: Are pizza boxes recyclable?
A: Only the clean part (usually just the top) is recyclable. Throw the rest of it in the trash or backyard compost bin if you have one. Cardboard is accepted in all curbside recycling programs and at recycling centers.
Q: Are paper towels, napkins and facial tissues recyclable?
A: No, tissue products should be disposed in the trash.
Q: Do I need to rinse containers before recycling?
A: Yes, rinse all containers (cans, bottles, tubs, etc.). A quick swish of water is all they need, no need to wash them thoroughly. With peanut butter jars, you have several options:
- Wipe residue out with a paper towel.
- Scrape residue out with a spatula.
- Scrub residue out with soap and water.
- Run the jar through the dishwasher when washing a load of dishes.
Q: So, what’s so bad about putting food and liquids in a recycling bin?
A: Food and liquids contaminate other recyclables lowering or totally negating their value. Liquids, especially hazardous liquids, could cause an entire truckload of recyclables to have to go to the landfill. Always make sure recyclable containers are empty and rinsed before putting them in your recycling bin.
Q: What kinds of plastic are and are not recyclable?
A: Visit our Plastics Recycling page for a detailed list of plastics that can and cannot be recycled in the Kansas City metro area.
Q: Is Styrofoam™ recyclable?
A: Expanded polystyrene (EPS) food containers such as cups, egg cartons, takeout cartons, and meat trays are not recyclable due to food contamination and low value. Clean, white EPS block, sheet and packing peanuts are recyclable at ACH Foam Technologies, in Kansas City, Kansas, (913) 321-4114. EPS peanuts can also be recycled at select UPS Stores.
Q: Is shredded paper recyclable?
A: Shredded paper is not accepted in curbside recycling or at recycling centers because recycling processing facilities are not set up to sort it. Recyclers can take shredded paper from commercial shredders because it bypasses the sorting process. Here’s the best way to deal with paper that you need to shred:
- Only shred private information - If you shred at home, rip off and shred only the parts of documents that contain private information: credit card numbers, bank account information, or Social Security numbers. Consider reusing it as a packing material or put it in your compost bin. Otherwise, place it in the trash. Place the rest of the document in your recycling bin.
- Shredding services – Most office supply stores including FedEx Office Print & Ship Center, Office Depot / Office Max, Staples, and The UPS Store provide shredding services for a fee and will recycle what they shred. Many communities offer paper shred events for their residents. Check with your community to find out about upcoming paper shredding events.
Q: Should I put caps back on or leave them off plastic bottles before recycling?
A: Put lids back on plastic bottles. For all other plastic caps and lids, store them in a plastic jar or tub. When the container is full, toss it into a recycling bin. These practices help ensure they don’t fall through the processing machinery.
Q: Are metal caps and lids recyclable?
A: Yes, but to help ensure they don’t fall through the processing machinery, collect them in a steel (tin) can and crimp the top shut before recycling.
Q: Why do I need to break down boxes before recycling them?
A: To save space, a couple boxes can take up an entire recycling bin. Also, breaking down boxes prevents other recyclables from getting trapped inside during the sorting process. If your flattened box is still too big for the bin, place it under or tightly between bins to keep wind from blowing it away.
Q: Why can’t I recycle glass curbside?
A: Your regular hauler doesn’t pick up glass food and beverage containers because it’s dangerous to workers, contaminates other recyclables when it breaks, and because of the low value of materials from which it is made. You can drop off your glass at Ripple Glass bins located throughout the metro area. There are also several glass collection companies in the metro area that offer curbside pickup for a fee: Atlas Glass KC, GlassBandit, Glass Gone, KC Curbside Glass and Wright Brothers Curbside Glass Recycling.
Q: When recycling paper, do I need to remove things like staples and paper clips?
A: Staples and paper clips do not need to be removed. You should remove larger items such as binder clips and spiral binding (whether metal or plastic).
Q: Do I need to remove labels from containers before recycling?
A: No, they get removed during processing.
Q: What types of trash and recycling services are available in my community?
A: Most communities in the Kansas City metro area offer their residents a combination of services either through curbside collection or drop-off facilities. Visit your community’s page to see what services are offered in your city or county.
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, 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: Can someone give a presentation on waste reduction and recycling to my group?
A: Our Recycle More At Work program offers presentations and many other free resources. Contact us today!
Q: My company or organization accepts materials for recycling and/or resale, how can I get listed on RecycleSpot?
A: Visit Add Your Services.
Q: I need some reliable facts and figures on recycling, can you help?
A: Yes, the following sources offer reliable recycling facts and figures:
For more detailed information on specific materials, search for trade associations, coalitions, councils and institutes. Some examples: American Forest & Paper Association, Carton Council, Glass Packaging Institute, Steel Recycling Institute, The Aluminum Association and The Association of Plastic Recyclers.